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.

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{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!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Running Update & Sauerkraut 20k

It's been a little while, so overdue for some running updates- and a random race report because, why not?

Getting back into running has been about as you'd expect. There are lots of WTF moments, but also those moments where I start to see a glimmer of my old self and can't help but smirk. There are times Brian, coach and friends get texts where they need to talk me off a ledge and times where I think they assume I'm vying for the 2020 Olympics because I'm so amped up and excited. For an admittedly very grey person (I rarely see things in black and white, this is a post for another day), I can be very all or nothing when it comes to my running. So, the last few weeks have been spent trying to find my grey area. That's where the balance is, where life and running coincide but neither dominates. This is something that has become so important to me the last few years, I don't want running to be my everything but I don't want it to be nothing either.

Finding my grey area has been going well though-but certainly have had my slip ups (Probably a few too many Shandy's). One thing that really helped me was going to Salty Running Camp in Ohio a few weeks ago. I have had the pleasure of getting to know these women and getting to spend a weekend with them running, eating, drinking and OH SO MUCH LAUGHING was just what the doctor ordered. Each person truly brings something different to the table, and each person reminded me in some way of all the good things in running and life. I am already looking forward to next years camp, you really should join us- I promise we will keep you entertained.
Salty Camp Shenanagins!
Back to training though... I've noticed my easy paces come down a little, my heart rate has been a little more steady, and adding in workouts isn't overly daunting. Although, workout paces ARE a little humbling compared to where I was- but I am doing my best to not compare because it really doesn't matter. I wouldn't change a thing from the last few months. Sure, the happy ending we wanted wasn't there- but that physical and mental break still had it's benefits for me. I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that.

Emotionally, I just have my moments- like anything. Some things trigger me to feel all the feels- and I have to do my best not to let it drag me down. I'm not avoiding feeling things, but I'm also not allowing them to consume me.

There is one thing I knew was going to present a challenge to me; pinning on a bib again. The last time I did that, I was 5 weeks pregnant on the starting line of one of the most iconic races...talk about feeling all the feels. Dramatic? Maybe, but doesn't change that it's how I feel.

When we decided I would start running again I knew that there would be some races I didn't want to miss. Bergen 5k was one of those races- unfortunately that is also a race that comes with a lot of pressure. It's our local chapter of USATF championship 5k event with a fast field and PR course. Admittedly, having that be the first bib I pin on since Boston scared the crap out of me(especially since I am nowhere near my competitive or PR shape). I wanted to use it as a time trial to see where I am at but worried the emotions would overshadow the race for me and hold me back. <-----This is me taking myself far too seriously.

I didn't think I really had another option before that though, until I saw a post on Facebook about the Sauerkraut 20k. It's only about a 45 minute drive, but a notably challenging course (specifically miles 6-8) and VERY low key. I ran this race in 2010 and 2011 and vaguely remember enough about it (Garmin logs helped fill in blanks). After looking at the plan for the weekend runs, I pitched the idea to coach (the day beforehand).  He agreed, as long as I was willing for it to be a workout, and not a race....which I was 100% on board with. It's low key race, and no pressure to perform at a certain level so backing off for some recovery mid-race wasn't going to be an issue. So, I bucked up the $45 knowing that it would be a good workout and a huge weight lifted emotionally for me.

My goal was to sneak in, run, and sneak out. That changed the moment I pulled in and saw two old friends, but I was SO glad to see them. Back when I started running road races I used to run with this group of guys all the time- they pushed me, encouraged me, and became like family. I don't live as close anymore so we only see each other a few times a year. In fact, both times I ran this race in the past they were there- so I should have expected to see them. Anyways, it made for a good morning and they reminded me to have FUN and just go run and see what happened. Get back to the basics of going out, running- and not taking it too seriously. You know, the things that made me fall in love with running in the first place.

So, I did my warm-up and then chatted at the start. This race has REALLY gotten smaller over the years. I ran it in 2010 and there were over 230 runners, the last time I ran it in 2011 there was 194. This year, just 89 runners for the 20k. Granted, it was just the kind of "race-workout" setting I needed- but still sad to see a very old race slowly dying out.

Plan: 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 4 miles around 7:15-30, 1 mile easy, 1 mile tempo, half mile easy and the hard into the finish.

Actual: 4 miles at 7:15 average, 1 mile easy, 4 miles (6 and 8 very slow uphill, 7 and 9 fast downhill) at 7:14, 1 mile easy, 1 mile at 7:08, half mile easy and then 6:40ish pace to the finish for the last little less than a mile. Final time was 1:30:16

I settled into a groove and just hung out for a few miles. Having this be a workout was really good mentally because it broke it up for me. Run 4 miles comfortably hard and then you get to chill for a mile. The first five miles are gradual uphill anyways-nothing nuts but it gets you over time. Mile 6 and 8 are notable uphills, and I managed to pass the other woman on 6 to take the lead. I was using every water stop as a sip of water and dumping the rest on myself. The 72 degrees with 83% humidity definitely not ideal- but about average for this race (August, folks).

I bobbled back and forth with 2 guys the last few miles which helped- and turned on my race gear a little bit but not enough that I forgot the point of the workout. The last mile was spent maneuvering all of the 5k runners coming through- but it wasn't that bad. I crossed the finish line in the midst of a few others and went about my day cheering for other runners and friends, hanging out and then heading back to Rochester. It was JUST what I needed- low key, confidence boosting, and a hard effort.

Shoes. Bra.
Where does this leave me heading forward? Well, the biggest thing is continue plowing forward through whatever comes my way. Deal with the roller coaster, find the joy in running again, and hop on the training wagon in a few weeks. I am running the Bergen 5k this weekend and then will run a half marathon on my birthday Labor day weekend. Once we get through those- I can better figure out more of what this fall will hold in regards to running.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Returning to Running

I said before that I would talk about the return to running, and here it is. As much as some might scoff at me saying that I'm out of shape after 2 months off- it simply means I am not in a place where I feel comfortable (it's not about a number on the scale). I don't feel like myself, or even feel like a runner- honestly those things take time even when there aren't a lot of emotions involved.

It's not a secret that getting back into shape can be tough, and there isn't some quick-fix. My successes in life came from hard work, not quick fixes- something I remind myself of often. With that said, there are also a lot of emotions surrounding this. I want to run more again, but I also wish things were different- obviously. I also know though that routine is good for me, and so are plans or some semblance of plans. So Brian and I have a loose timeline of what we want to see happen for us and our life in the coming years(*insert snark about the best laid plans here*). I also have my own timeline for my career in the next few years. After those priorities, comes running. My running timeline is dictated by the others, and never the other way around- but I do have the time and desire to train again at the moment, so that is what I am going to do.

I originally said I would wait a few weeks to get myself in some semblance of running shape before starting a training plan with coach again. When the hormones started shifting though and I found myself unnecessarily stressing about it, I knew it was best to bring him in board sooner. One of the biggest things James does for me is remove any running stress, I trust him to guide me and work with me on what is best for me training. So, there is a plan in the calendar as it's been helpful to feel like I have some routine. The last 2 weeks of June I started to see some consistency and that mentally was helpful. I will log my training as normal, and publish training logs over on Salty Running where you can follow along if you choose.

As for goals, I have a few in mind. But for the time being most are going to be held a little closer to the chest until I really feel ready and at a point I can tackle those goals. Right now the main goal is getting consistency back with my running, build back to 5-6 days a week and eventually back up to my pre-Boston mileage. Beyond that I am working to get back into routine with strength training as well, I know it will help me come back stronger and faster, but also healthier/safer. Coach has given me some workouts to do but I also am getting back into regular work with mini-bands, as this is something that has helped me a ton in the past. Of course I'm spending some quality time with my favorite Addaday roller because, well....returning to running is tiring and makes you just as sore as the thick of marathon training.

Race wise, I have a few I am eyeing (5k-half) that will be used as time trials/tuneups to see how my training is progressing. I MAY run a fall marathon, but nothing is set in stone. If I do I already know which race it will be but not until later fall, and ONLY if I feel ready to race it for a PR. I ran one marathon this year for the hell of it, and the next time I toe that 26.2 start line I want to be able to use everything from pre-Boston and everything I build this summer to bring me to one killer race. I have no regrets about Boston, or this spring- but that doesn't mean I don't want to see big things happen this year still if I can make it happen.

Call it retail therapy, or call it the desire for even MORE data- but I bought myself a new running watch. My Garmin 910XT is awesome (and I will still use it), but I've really been enjoying my new 225(Great deal on Amazon for a refubed one). The optical wrist heart rate is nice (I hate chest straps for HRM), and gives me good feedback on how hard I'm really working. Coming back into training is tough to gauge what is easy pace. Even though I'm not coming back from injury, I still want to make sure I don't set myself back. I won't live and die by the heart rate but I do think it will be a good tool for feedback.

On the same note of wanting to ease back into things and not get hurt. I have been wearing some more supportive shoes lately, particularly the Zealot ISO 2. The Kinvara's are my go-to trainers but I admit the Zealots have definitely stepped up in the competition. They are similar, but offer a bit more cushion and support for pounding the pavement. I will write more about this another day though, I have lots of good Saucony things to talk about!

Lastly I'd say that focusing on my nutrition and general health is key for life but also getting back into running. I mentioned I started taking my Iron and Vitamin D Supplements again, which I know makes a difference. I also have been better about packing lunches and healthier snacks for work (especially on days I work both jobs). Sleep is the one area I definitely need improvement, but that has been a work in progress with new schedules and less time in the day to get things done.

So with all of that said we will see where things go. It won't be some breakthrough overall, but more generally a physical and mental reset...fresh start. I can't call it a comeback, because I don't ever want to think of pregnancy as a setback. Even though it didn't go how we wanted, I don't want to associate negative feelings with it.
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