Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Breakaway

I'd like to think I have the ability to be good with words. I love learning, I read more than most, I could spend hours and hours analyzing quotes/lyrics, but none of that has given me the ability to find any adjective that could remotely come close to describing this year. The lows and highs were so incredibly personal, they left marks that will ALWAYS be there- but words to explain that to anyone who didn't live through it with me....there are none. Even for those who were there- I fail to help them comprehend just exactly how those moments truly felt. Maybe it's something that isn't meant to be understood by anyone other than ourselves- but I do know that the people in my life have seen the effects those moments have had on me this year.

I actually had fun spending the 30 seconds mapping out this year on paper. It was interesting to see after the fact that without planning it- I drew my lows in the second half of the year, at the same point as the highs in the first half. I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure some mental health professionals would eat that right up.

I giggled as I drew my 'new home' because that's truly about the size of the apartment I moved into at first.

 I felt my heart beat a little faster thinking about everything that Boston meant to me- that weekend reminded me that there is so much more out there.

My stomach growled thinking about NJ with the girls- and how Hollie's Fiance decided it would be a good idea to meet her best friends by greeting them with the largest red velvet cake EVER (smart man).

I'm grateful for Buffalo this year- the feeling of FINALLY breaking 90 in the half but then being able to go back and run some friends and family members in as they finished 26.2 mile treks.

I smirked thinking about the lemon drop martini's I drank while stranded in Chicago, and the shots of Whiskey I did in the airport on the way home from that same Midwest trip.

I even laughed at just how bad the month of July felt for me running wise- worst 5k and 10k times in YEARS. Humbling yes, but a good catalyst for change.

I remember how nervous I was doing my first few big workouts that coach gave me, and how invincible I felt after succeeding at them.

I can still see Britt and Heather jumping up and down like they were doing Zumba cheering for me along side the Erie Canal during Rochester Marathon. I am still overflowing with pride running the last bit of the marathon with my sister and watching her crush her PR and nearly BQ.

I choke up thinking about the home stretch of Empire- and how overwhelming it felt in every way possible. I can still feel the thick tape consuming me as I crossed the line.

My heart still melts hearing my nephew recognize me as 'woo woo', I'll actually be sad when he can pronounce it properly.

I can still feel every emotion from Memphis. Finally meeting a great friend and training buddy in person. Images of the race, the taste of the BBQ, Beer and Bourbon while celebrating, and the sound of my dad and I laughing hysterically.

I remember the hug I got the following day, from an old friend turned new friend...a hug that reminded me of the same one she gave me in 2011.

These are the things I'll look back on this year and remember. The other stuff is just white noise.

What actually changed from last year to this year?
Living with someone in a house--->Living in dorm room sized apartment--->Creating a HOME in a new place

{"Now put ya hands up"}

Inconsistent in most aspects of life--->Consistent in quite a few aspects of life 
{Creating/Keeping GOOD Habits}

Working 1 Full time job 40 hrs/week--->Working Full time & Part time jobs totaling 50-70 hrs/week 
{I thrive when I stay busy}

Limited family time---> Regular Family time
{Love these crazy people}

In Running...
3:13 Marathoner--->3:04 Marathoner 
{2 Minute drop/7 Minute drop}

Self-Coached Athlete----> Coached Athlete 

1573 Running Miles---->2093+ Running Miles 
{Helllooooo consistency}

1241 Biking Miles---->200+ Biking Miles 
{Cut out Triathlons this year to FOCUS on running}

90+ Half Marathoner--->Sub-90 Half Marathoner 
{FINALLY broke that barrier!}

I can't wait to see what challenges, changes, and choices 2015 has to bring.

Happy New Year:)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Recap 2014

After finally comprehending some of the 'Sentiments from Memphis', I think it's finally time to purge the race thoughts and start wrapping my head around the race itself. There's also like 50 million photos of me running, I'm sorry.

The usual marathon recap disclosure: crack a beer and get comfy, it's gonna be long.

The night before the race, laid everything out as I normally do. Puttered around in compression, going through checklists in my head, not once but more like three times. We were all stalking the weather debating if the rain would hold off, was it going to be too warm or too cold? You know, all the things we want to know but obviously won't until it's actually time. Of course, this is about the time I realized my 'luck' of being a girl. Cue the "are you kidding me?" followed by plenty of raging F-Bomb texts. But, the show must go on...or something like that.

Race morning went smooth getting ready, I managed to get down a half of a bagel with my cold coffee. Packed up race gear, crossed my fingers I wasn't forgetting something and started drinking my bottle of Generation UCAN before hitting the road. It wasn't a bad morning, tad muggy with some wind but the cooler temps (High 40's) were where I needed them to be. I also knew enough that the amount of turns in the course would make it so the wind couldn't possibly change directions as much as we did.

 We made it to the race pretty easily, maybe a 15 minute drive as we were staying out by the airport. Once we got close we simply followed the cars with the run-brag stickers(not knocking 'em, I have it too).  Once we got there and parked, we made our way over towards the start, a few obligatory Beale Street photo ops and then said our goodbyes.
Me and great friend/fellow kick ass runner Luke

No doubts about me being cut from this cloth.  Love you Dad!
I then made my way up to the suites in the park to put my things with the other elites. I know that most of my times, while fast are not typical elite standards but I was very grateful for this chance. They took wonderful care of us, warm place to stay before the race, with food and water and a place to leave our things.

The suite only had a few athletes left in there, as most had made their way down to the start already. I put my bags down and introduced myself to some of the others, who were all incredibly nice. I spent some time talking to two of the other female marathoners, and we decided it was time to walk down together.

We were concerned about waiting in bathroom lines, but knew we needed to go one more time. When we got to the start, we told the elite coordinator and she showed us to a bathroom set aside for us. We said good luck and chatted a little more, bouncing around in the corral. I did a few strides to loosen up while taking inventory of how I was feeling. I took off my jacket and grabbed a last bit of water from the EC again and then it was time. Luke was in the first corral behind me, we said good luck one more time and smirked like the goofy people we are as we fist bumped leaving seconds until go-time.

The first mile was mentally rough, I mean ROUGH.  All of us in the elite corral took off 2 minutes before the rest of the field, I almost instantly found myself in the back all alone. Out of the marathoners I was the slowest, and obviously all of the elite half-ers took off like bats out of hell. I felt like I was losing the race already. Then we got to the first few crowds of the day and I pushed the negative thoughts away. Going down Beale street around mile 3 was great, the crowds and the energy were such a boost. I knew that I couldn't get too wrapped up in it though, I focused on breathing easy and keeping my form in check.

After the first few miles I started getting caught by the second corral. I knew this was going to happen but man oh man, having half marathoners fly past you was mentally challenging. I got passed by some marathoners too (basically guys who were going to go sub 3). I kept telling myself to run my own race, it helped....a little.
Being hunted down by the half marathoners
I saw my dad for the first time right outside the St. Jude campus, I smiled and waved and held up 2 fingers- that was my goal, hold second place. After talking to the girls before the race, I knew the one girl was planning on going out at 2:50-55 pace which told me I would be fighting for second.  Maybe it sounds pessimistic that I didn't even THINK about winning, but going out at 6:30 pace and trying to hang with her would have been grade A stupid move on my part. Maybe someday.

Going through the St. Jude campus was by far one of the best parts of the day. So many people, children, signs, cheering, music- I couldn't help but get choked up. I high fived as many kiddos as I could, and soaked it all in. I was surrounded by children who are stronger than I will EVER be, and caught myself thinking about little ones I know and love in my own life.

After that, I realized my garmin was already reading long(shitty tangents by me) and I needed to not use the pace setting.  A female marathoner from second corral had caught me and I heard her telling guys near her that her goal was 7's. I started instantly questioning if I was way off pace and had a million negative things going through my head. Then I realized I wasn't that far off pace, and that group was going far faster than they thought. For my own hot headed sanity I picked up the pace to stay in front of them anyways. I never saw her again.

Shortly after that I heard my name yelled, cranked my head to the left to see Katie! I knew she would be out there but didn't expect her till 21,  I was sooooo happy! I smiled and waved and I have to say it was a GREAT time for a boost. I think I was excited to see her, judging by my reaction :)

Going into the race, I had made my goal to go out at the first half around 1:32-1:32:30. Because I couldn't trust my garmin I was relying more on the race clocks and mile markers. I knew that I couldn't wait that long to start figuring out where I was at, so I told myself get to mile 10 and do the math to see where I was at. I then made my plan to keep adding 7 to that to know what I needed to reach each clock at. I hit 10 a little over 70, and then told myself to get to mile 11 before 1:17. I ONLY allowed myself to think about the number I needed for the next mile so I wouldn't get ahead of myself. I locked into that pace and was truly running by feel and not a slave staring at my watch. One mile at a freaking time, that works REALLY well- no wonder people preach staying in the mile you're in.

Around mile 11, I was cruising faster than I should have been but felt good and had a strong mental kick that I was missing before.  I think I also was singing a little bit here as a song popped into my head and wouldn't leave --"If you could see me now would you recognize me? Would you pat me on the back or would you criticize me?" Leave it to The Script to invade my brain mid-race.

I saw dad at mile 12, I told him I was right on pace and he told me to keep going and to kick ass. For once I was going to try and do what he told me to, first for everything right?

We broke off from the half marathoners at this point, and I was happy to be out there with just marathoners even though it meant less people around. I needed to focus on my race and not the others. Based on my mid-race formed plan of focusing on multiples of 7's, I needed to hit mile 13 at 1:31 and I was a little ahead. I smiled big when I hit the half at 1:31:42, which was a little faster than my pre-race goal but not so much faster that I feared a big blow up later.

I wasn't expecting to, but around mile 14 I saw my dad again. He was easy to spot far away and I could tell he was on the phone, when I got closer he held out the phone and told me to say hi to mom. I yelled "Hi mom I love you" at the top of my lungs, everyone around us laughed. Even from 1000 miles away I knew I had amazing support back home.

I stuck to my plan and was reaching each clock before the 7:00 pace time and had built a small buffer. Silly enough I was proud of myself for sticking to that plan and the fact that it was working for me. Miles 14-19 FLEW, I tackled the rolling hills as best I could and tucked in tight when the wind picked up.  Around 19 I was starting to feel my left IT band aching. The roads were pretty banked so I moved more towards the middle trying to find flatter section, which helped a bit. I cruised through 20 right around 2:20 which was exactly where I wanted to be at that point.  I was hurting, but fought the mental battle as much as I could. "You've come this far, you can't lose it now." and LOTS of "Just hold on like hell". 

Knowing I would see Katie again at mile 21 helped give me a small goal to focus on rather than the fact that I was still 5+ miles away from being done. People were confirming what I knew along the way "You go girl, 2nd Female!!", I had no idea what sort of lead I had which kept me pushing. I passed 21 and then saw Katie and her husband cheering- I yelled "It hurts", and she quickly responded "I know, just keep going- you're awesome and on pace for 3 hours!!!!" I was so grateful to have her out there- true runner out supporting others! Clearly I was less chipper than the first time I saw her, as per photo proof. Oh  what a difference a few miles makes.

I felt myself fading. I was holding on for dear life and talking myself into getting to the next mile. Just one more mile. Suck it up. Okay, one more mile. I literally willed myself those last few miles with everything I had. My left leg was hurting, I was wheezing a bit and I just wanted to get to the finish. On the other side of this 4 lane road, marathoners were still heading out and I could hear them screaming for me, I have never heard "you go girl" so many times. I had some flashbacks to Empire Half from October, and I reminded myself how AMAZING it felt to hold on and win. I knew I wasn't going to win this race, but I also knew if I held on I was going to have a top 2 finish and a big PR. I didn't deserve this, I was earning every second of it though.

Somewhere in the last few miles I started cutting it close with the 7's, I knew it was happening but didn't care. Just keep going. I was so excited to get to St. Jude again at mile 24- while there was far less  people than the first time, it was still inspiring and helpful. I came around one corner to a HUGE crowd that did the wave as I ran by. I was half in tears from EVERYTHING going through my head, the good and the bad. Pain train 101, crying doesn't help. I sucked it in and just kept moving trying not to pay attention to time.
Second Pass through St. Jude.........Hot Mess Express.
The last 2 miles were the longest 2 miles of the day(literally, slowest of the day). I didn't have many people  around me and I was just struggling to keeping going. It was a weird feeling, I didn't want to stop but I didn't feel like moving either, we'll call this the wall.  I hit 25 knowing there were a few turns ahead and then the finish.

When I got close to the ballpark, there were bigger crowds as expected. The course narrowed as the gates got closer together and I felt the energy of the people surrounding me. My calf seized up just like it did before final turn for Rochester and a group of people saw me wince and encouraged me the best they could. I needed that, I was so grateful for the liars telling me how good I looked.  I made the sharp left and went down the ramp and squinted to see 3:04 on the clock, this was happening.

3 Hours. 4 Minutes. 40 Seconds. 
2nd female, 7 minute PR.

Within 30 seconds of the finish Jessica, the elite coordinator was hugging me asking me what I needed. Lots of photos taken, getting my medal and then also got to see Alyssa who was the first place female. She ran a 2:52 which was a new PR for her as well, her second marathon and second win- incredibly awesome. 

Then I looked up and saw Luke standing there, I know I had a very confused look on my face. He just said it wasn't his day and proceeded to give me the biggest hug he could. An incredibly strong person who set aside his own rough day for that moment in order to congratulate me and be a kick ass friend.

The finish area was, a CLUSTER. I'd actually say this was the only thing about the race that was lacking. They only had a quarter of the stands open for spectators, most was blocked off with gates, which created big bottlenecks everywhere. Most spectators(including my dad) couldn't even see the finish line.  I knew it was going to be hard to find him in the mess.

 I somehow squeezed through and got up to the suites to get my things so I could call him on my phone to find him. There were a few of the elite men waiting in there, they congratulated me and chatted about where we were from briefly (Including the typical NY does not necessarily mean NYC conversation).  I turned on my phone (which promptly blew up, thank you I love you all) and called dad. I took us another 20 minutes or so to find him after that because of the crowds and security. But when I did see him, biggest best dad hug EVER. He was telling anyone around us, "my daughter got second!"- he's allowed to do that, he's a dad.

Most people knew I wanted a PR and sub 3:10 going into this race, but I'll be very honest in that I didn't go in with JUST that goal. Coach and I had talked about 3:03-4, based on my training and strengths in racing/pacing. While I came in the first half ahead of pace, I didn't the second half (1:31:42 and 1:32:58). I'd say I was right where I wanted to be until about 22/3. I lost it in those last few miles- but I hesitate with that word LOST. I faded, I rode the pain train, but I held on like there was no tomorrow. Someone needs to tie me down and have a serious talk with me about tangents though, 26.5 miles- an extra THIRD of a mile due to my inability to run straight.

Marathon #10 is in the books, a shiny new PR and a second place finish. While those things in itself are huge personal successes- I find my biggest pride from this race was the progress I made in the 11 weeks since Rochester. A shorter gritty cycle, that had me tired and begging for taper but turned me into a stronger more confident runner. I went into the race being as prepared as I could be. I had my fuel and my gear. I had the training and the miles. I had the workouts and the confidence. I studied the course, read many posts and knew what to expect for hills (and yes, that over/underpass combo late in the race does suck going down more than it does going up). I knew what I needed to, prepared for what I could, and worked through everything else. This race wasn't a fluke, it wasn't a stroke of luck- it was simply preparedness with a push. 

Cheers to successes big and small & to chances well taken. 

Up Next: Bottoms up....the Memphis Weekend Shenanigans.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sentiments from Memphis

I've sat here for a while now staring at a blank screen. How can I possibly describe the 72 hours of my life better known as December 5, 6 and 7th 2014? There are no words, but I'll try to find some.

As most of you know, this year has been full of challenges in my personal life as well as my running. Don't get me wrong, we all have struggles and I certainly don't expect any year of my life to be without fault. This year though- the one that left me cracked in many ways, but could have broke me if I had let it. More importantly, the year that would have broke me if others had let it. The pieces of me were held together by the people around me, their kind words and actions that were the super glue I needed after the bull went through the china shop.

 For a big part of this year, I chose not to feel things as a defense mechanism. I didn't want to feel the anger, sadness, bitter and loneliness that was trying to consume me. A side effect of this, I wasn't able to feel the positive emotions either.  I wasn't living I was just maintaining, it isn't life without the ups AND the downs. So piece by piece as time went on this fall I started taking down the wall one at a time. Maybe that was my problem at Rochester, I wasn't ready for the wave to come crashing in on me. Heading into Memphis, my confidence was at an all time high. The workouts were there, the miles were done, the support from others had allowed me to become comfortable and I finally started to feel things again. I think at Empire Half in October, the emotions from the PR/Win put a dent in the wall....while in Memphis I wanted to bust through the rest like a damn wrecking ball.

Some of you may never understand why this was so important to me- and that's ok, YOU don't need to. This weekend was the culmination of the hard work I have put in for years, but more specifically the last few months with my running. I made the choice to take things to the next level, I made the choice to forget about the fear and lay it all on the line for something that I desperately wanted. What I wanted had less to do with a specific time, and more to do with feeling something. I wanted to feel in control, I wanted to feel the push, the hurt, the drive and the emotions- believe me when I say I felt all of that. Every single one of my race photos I look the same, very focused and you can tell I'm reminding myself to breathe. If only I could have recorded the thoughts in my head during those photos, it was the kind of dialogue cheesy inspirational YouTube videos are made from (In my head, I picture 'Rise and Shine'). The mind really will give out far before the body if you let it.

This weekend was also the proof that the relationship with my Dad (which, admittedly hasn't always been the best, mainly due to my own faults), is light-years beyond what it was. I love that man to pieces, but in my 27 years this was the first time we did something for a weekend the two of us. Not to mention the fact that it included travelling 1000 miles so he could support me in a race. For the better part of 3 days we talked and laughed like friends, not just father and daughter. The pride in his face when he found me after the race, the hugs and the words...still bring tears to my eyes. I will NEVER forget that. Ever.

This weekend reminded me just how many great people are out there, despite the naysayers and the pirates. Whether it be in real life, or virtual- the relationships that I have are beyond words (I was so grateful to turn a 'virtual' into a 'real life' one this weekend though, more about that in a weekend recap). Good luck charms and cards with nothing but encouraging words, people who went out of their way to make things easier for me. The list of things the people in my life did for me in this short period of time alone- could wrap around the world. Twice.

By now you probably know that Saturday I ran a pretty damn personally epic race. If you follow me on ANY form of social media- you're probably tired of being blasted with things about it-- here's where I insert #sorrynotsorry. You know what, it happened and I am going to enjoy every second of it. This is what I have to share about my life like others do with their children, marriages, homes, and successes- my current life allows my running to be my child, to be the thing I'm married to, and to be the home I find comfort in. Someday that will change, someday I will be proud of the sound of my heels walking down the aisle or the sound of my kiddos bitty feet pitter pattering around- but in the mean time, I'm going to be proud of the sound of my feet hitting the pavement for a little over 3 hours. Everyone has things they want to share and be proud of, I love seeing the similarities and differences in that. We all deserve a chance to share that which we love.

Going into Memphis I knew that those 26+ miles would most likely be the last ones I ran in 2014- if you knew that, how would you run it? For 3 hours, 4 minutes, and 40 seconds- I ran like it was my one shot to prove something. The good news, it wasn't my one shot at anything- it wasn't the last time I will EVER run, and it certainly won't be a limit for future running adventures. I can look back and say I ran like it was though, so there's that.

Coming home on Sunday there was no dread. There was no sadness walking into my own place, I was proud. I came back to a place I call MY home,  to relax and then make my way to an evening of friends and fun. I was lucky enough to come home to celebrate friends getting married- to end an already amazing weekend, with even more love and emotions than I was already overflowing with.

There will be a recap of the race up soon- but I think that it was important for me to remember what I wanted out of this race first. I felt what I needed to and I earned what I wanted...and more.

In the mean time forgive me while I go dry my eyes- something seems to have been permanently stuck in them for a few days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

23 Miles of Gratefulness

Marathon training is time consuming, challenging and whether you admit it or not- something that isn't done solo. Sure, we do the runs in our own bodies and put the miles on our own shoes. We do the work, but support from others is something I think many runners discount when looking at their training. Whether it be words of encouragement from a friend, someone calling you to make sure you are up, maybe actually running together, little and big things all make a difference (especially the little ones).

I have no shortage of great support from friends/family. Quite a few of my best friends who I talk to daily don't live here in Rochester. Some don't even live in this state, but it doesn't matter- they take the time to encourage me, ask about training, and even come to races. That's what friends...and runners do. The running community here in Rochester is pretty awesome too, I know I'm lucky to have such great friends/runners also in the area.

The long introduction was to bring me to the point that runners are great people, they support others while training AND racing. This past weekend some friends of mine hosted an off the books half and full marathon. It was a Sunday run, on a marked course with volunteers and post-race celebration. I had 23 miles planned for the day, so they offered to drop me off at mile 3, so I could run the last 23 of the course as my workout.

While I was reminded by a friend the night before- this was not a "pass/fail" kind of run. BUT, I knew that I wanted it to go well (no one wants bad runs, but you know what I mean). I knew that while a bad run wouldn't break me, a good run could help build me up this final two weeks until race day. This was the third time I have gone up to 23 in training for a race. The first time was last year training for CIM, where I had an AMAZING feeling run and it gave me incredible confidence heading into taper. I also ran 23 training for Rochester this fall, although that run wasn't so great but still got the time on feet in. My goal for this run was to focus on form, practice fueling strategies and test race gear and pacing. Coach had given me a progression pace plan with a warm-up and then progression down to the last few being faster than marathon pace. I was excited for the challenge.

I got up and did my normal puttering around, downed a bottle of GenUCAN and then made my way to my friends house. We met up with everyone else and I cheered and waved off the runners as they left on the double loop course. I was then dropped off at mile 3ish and waited until the one other person doing the marathon passed me and then jumped in to finally begin my workout. It was hard to keep slower pace the first 2 miles, but I knew there was a long way to go. I went back and forth for a while with one of the guys who was running the half, this gave me a good distraction. The course was rolling hills, which forced me to focus on form and effort- GREAT training run conditions.

I never went more than 2-3 miles without seeing someone. Whether it was a water bottle hand off (I didn't have to carry one, simply take a sip and drop it), cheering, or road marshaling around a corner. One fellow runner even came out to take photos for the day(Photo Credits: Come on people if this is not your idea of a Sunday Funday Runday I don't know what is. I progressed as planned the first 10 miles of the run, spot on.
Back at the starting point, mile 10 for me- 13 for everyone else. Still feeling good:)
When I got back to the school at mile 10, there were even MORE people there than when we started. Cheering, ringing imaginary cowbells, offering encouragement and fuel. I smiled, waved, danced a little and went on my way. 13 miles to go, and this is when I was supposed to start dropping pace more significantly.

The first 12 miles of the run, I was taking one shot block (Margarita, for extra sodium) every 2 miles or so. This is a method I've used before in races/long runs that works well for consistent fuel and less stomach issues. After 12, I switched over to caffeinated gels (GU Vanilla Bean). When I got to 13, I wasn't feeling great. Maybe it was switch-over from fuel, or just general miles of bleh (it happens). 13-16 were those mental miles that required some will power, which was good training because 13-20 are my least favorite miles of the marathon. I also really had to pee during this time, but every time I found a wooded spot I'd consider- I'd see a car pulled over not too far ahead (Friends cheering) and decided I'd save my public indecency for later.

Around 17, I started mentally and physically feeling better, my turnover increased and I started feeling stronger. Gel kicking in, maybe. Support/encouragement from friends, maybe. General love of later miles, most likely. Desire to finish so I could pee, yeah pretty sure that was it. I was finally able to get my pace down to where it was supposed to be for 17-18.

Once I hit 19 I was supposed to be sub-7, so I knew I had to focus. I stopped taking water/fuel after 20, partly because I thought I'd burst and partly because I was getting in the zone and cranking out the miles. The last 6 miles were all 7:02 or faster. I knew the run would be a little longer, and I decided to hit that last section harder and practice my 'finish kick'. I ran the last .43 at 6:20 pace, which made me happy that after a hard 23 miles I was not on E and still could push.

I could see everyone waiting, and it was a welcome sight after a long training run. I'm not used to people being there when I'm done. I admit, something challenging about making some of the changes I did this year, is that when I come home- there's no one there. Sometimes you just want to finish a day/run/workout (good or bad) and be able to come home and express yourself about it. So finishing my best 23 miler (not in a race) to cap off a great cycle and having friends there (and people I had just met!), meant more than I could say.
Tired. Happy. Grateful. DONE.
Overall I am really happy with this run. I was in control, stayed relaxed, and was able to finish strong even after a few off miles. I worked on my fueling, and race day strategies. Heck, the terrain and weather even mimicked what Memphis will be like pretty damn closely.

I have one more workout today, a tempo which if done properly will give me a new half marathon PR. If only I could get a USATF official to come certify it for me. 10 days people, 10 freaking days and I couldn't be more grateful for this year in life and training (the good AND the bad).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WHY I Hired a Running Coach

I've been asked a lot why I hired a coach, what I hope to get out of it. The answer isn't black and white. This is something that had been on my mind for a long time but never really had a reason to act on it. I had PR'd every distance in the 12 months leading up to hiring a coach. I hadn't had a string of injuries, I hadn't had a pattern of things happening that warrant changes. Those are 2 big things that let me hold off on a coach for as long as I did. I was getting faster, stronger, and remaining mostly healthy/intact without a 'coach'.

Some hire a coach to get started.
Some hire a coach to learn.
Some hire a coach to get faster/stronger
Some hire a coach to heal.
Some hire a coach purely for the accountability.
Some hire a coach simply because they can.

The sum total of all things this year was pretty much what led to my decision though.

I had big goals while training for Boston. I wanted my training and miles to be stellar- if that meant a PR then great, if it didn't then that's fine too. Here enters Polar Vortex, The Unexplained Calf Debacle of 2014, and my personal life being in shambles. Boston became an 'experience' run and I was okay with that, I shut down training well before the race even happened. I was smart enough to back off so I could run healthy, even if that meant slower. Then after Boston, recovery was 'magical'. Maybe it was the weight off my shoulders from everything else, maybe it was just a fluke- but I was running better than ever. Earning myself a nice shiny new half marathon PR at the end of May, I was on top of the world. Then the slow spiral started.

June was okay, I was excited and officially marathon training again. I had 2 sub-par races but nothing I was overly concerned about, they weren't my goals. Training was going well, I had a loose plan of what I wanted to do for Rochester but was also enjoying the freedom of doing what I wanted with my running.

July, started great with a strong 20 miler. Three days later I let emotion and rage get the best of me and banged out a 16 miler (and not a 'recovery' 16, because that just isn't a thing). I felt okay though, some friends showed concern but I said I was FINE. The rest of the month continued into a depressed state(Physically and emotionally). Running a 5k and 10k that were the worst I have ran in years, something was wrong. Part of it was physical, and a big part was mental but there was no denying it...July was a rut and I was borderline over-training. I struggled pretty bad and only told a few people about it- I was ashamed at first. I felt like I was failing, and felt like I couldn't pull myself out of it- luckily I have some kick ass friends who made sure to remind me that wasn't the case. I knew that I needed to make some changes, and that started with actively searching for help at the end of July.

A good friend of mine had struggled with some similar things, but had seen much improvement since working with her coach. I was frustrated, emotional and feeling like everything I had been working for was slipping away. So she introduced her coach to me via email. We emailed, back and forth over and over. Was this going to be a good fit? What's your training style? Getting to know each other and making sure it was right. I can truly say he helped me get my running back on track the last 4 months. (No more rut, no more flirting with over-training, and mentally finding my race grit again. If that isn't proof maybe the new marathon PR, and a new half PR/Win are--and this is just the beginning)
So I can relate to all those reasons I said people choose a coach. I wanted to get started (training at new level), I wanted to learn new ways to do things and new ways to help this lifestyle and not just when it comes to pounding pavement.

Obviously I want to get faster and stronger, coach and I have some big goals for myself and I love it. I needed to heal, physically and mentally- slowing down, giving him the power and removing some of my stress, the added was all healing to me (healing does not just refer to physical injuries).

The accountability has been huge, knowing I have to report back- knowing that someone out there is invested in my training. The accountability has helped me slow down when I need to, and push more even when I'm tired and want to hold back.

Then there is the fact, I hired a coach because I could. I work two jobs as most of you know. This is not just so I can pay my bills, this is so I can sustain the lifestyle that I want (mainly race fee's and travel, let's be real), save money for future and still have a life outside of paying bills. I don't have kids, I drive a car that is paid off(read: old), I live in a modest apartment, and I don't live beyond my means. I have the ability to put some money and time into my training so I'm taking advantage of that because it's important to me.

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it doesn't mean I wasn't good enough before- it simply means...I needed help. We all do in some way or another, whether we admit it or not. I wanted to get the help before things got worse, over-training/injury are things I wanted to avoid. Having a coach doesn't eliminate those things from happening- in fact I think having the WRONG coach can increase chances of those things. I happened to find a coach I work incredibly well with, and for that I can say I'm truly grateful.

I have another post in drafts about things I have learned having a coach, and what I find to be most beneficial- if you have any questions you want answered let me know and I'll include it!

If you have a coach: What led you to get one?
If you don't have a coach: What's stopping you?

Has anyone else reading here experienced serious physical/emotional rut with training (borderline over-training)? 
[I'm considering a post on some experiences with this, I would love some input on those who have experienced it. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can email me instead of leaving it in comments (I will make the post anonymous)]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Counting Down: Racing, Off-Season and Fresh Starts

I'm a nerd, who likes spreadsheets, lists, numbers, and many other nerdy things. Memphis is in a few weeks- you can bet the spreadsheets have started (fueling plans, pace plans), lists have begun (packing list, travel plans, etc.) and the numbers are certainly being crunched.

While I can honestly say at this point I have no idea what my goal could or should be for the race- I'm feeling confident I have another PR in me this year (Sub 3:11), beyond that who knows. I'm not stressing about it. Looking back I think I was too set on specifics for Rochester and that made me feel like that race was not an accomplishment (Um, PR and 4th place finish- it is an accomplishment and I will remind myself that every day. I'm mad at myself for even thinking it wasn't). I have enough going on outside of training- so minimizing stress IN training is crucial (luckily I have an awesome coach who helps with this).

I focus on my workouts and getting things done without dwelling on a finish line number(yet) and quite frankly it's nice. I'm not doing my normal result stalking, post-its with goal times, etc.etc. Do I have some ideas what I would like to see happen, absolutely- but first and foremost I want to enjoy the hell out of marathon #10 and see what I have in me that day (whatever time that means). Coach and I will talk more about goals as it gets closer. Yes I care about my time, yes I want to do well but right now the focus is on getting the training in first.

The countdown is certainly on though. Well, multiple countdowns.

21 Days until I am wheels up from Rochester with my Pops! A weekend away is going to be just what I need, I do love Rochester(most days) but we ALL need a break from life sometimes. My Dad decided to use some flyer miles and join me on the trip- it has him written all over it....blues, BBQ, bourbon (this is where I get it from). My flights were already booked but he managed to get on the same ones- Memphis, I'm not sure you're ready to handle this father-daughter duo. We create havoc wherever we go. I'm super excited for my friends that will be there to meet this crazy man- I think they'll understand me a lot more after that, I'm not kidding.

22 Days until Marathon #10. WHAT. Where in the hell did I find time to run 10 marathons in 3 1/2 years? Beats me. I'm so excited for this race, more than words can say. I'm excited to be in a new city, running on new streets, and putting a solid last 6+ months of training to good use. I'm excited to run through St. Jude Campus and  see the amazing children who are more inspiring than I could ever be. I'm excited to run with people I know, and people I don't. I'm excited for the start line, the great miles, the hard miles and the finish line. I cannot wait to soak it all in and lay it on the line.

23 Days until off season. Yes, I AM looking forward to this. Yes I wanted Memphis, I wanted more hard training even knowing it meant postponing downtime. BUT, I'm human and I fully admit- training is hard. Training is time consuming, exhausting, overwhelming- but 100% worth it. I'm looking forward to some extra time with family and friends for the holidays. I'm looking forward to working out without a purpose for a few weeks and getting back to the basics.

48 days until the new year, and new training cycle. Just as much as I am looking forward to a few weeks of downtime- of course I am excited for training to start again. I'm excited for 2014 to be over and to attack 2015 with ferocity, courage and confidence in the person 2014 turned me into.

What are you counting down to?
Holidays? A Race? The end of the work day?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rolling With the Punches

I can effectively sum up the last few weeks of my life in Gilmore Girl images.

So, the day before Empire State Half- I got the news that my Grandma was not strong enough for more cancer treatments. Luckily I have incredible friends who are always there for me when need be. Phone calls, texts (even at odd hours), and general support- I'd be lost without them.
My grandma no longer lives around here (Florida) so seeing her is not as simple. Her time is limited, and we are simply waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for good things is hard enough, waiting for bad things...well....
With everything going on, I was diving back into working a ton. Both jobs have been keeping me living the busy-body-life.  Keeping myself distracted is a go-to method for coping though. Which naturally leads to....
Then the last week of October, I found out that a bigger apartment was available. When I left and moved in April, I picked the first available that I could afford that wasn't on the corner of murder row/car theft alley. But as time has gone on, my need for more of a home became increasingly apparent. My very small studio just wasn't cutting it anymore. Which led to a VERY busy last few days of the month with a last minute move. Throw everything in boxes as quick as possible.
This also included: running in circles around the block waiting for RG&E to come turn my power on (3 days late). That was a fun run, pretty sure my neighbors are going to have me committed. 

More work + moving = less time for other things. Grateful for those who helped me out, which usually involved food. Quick lunches, take-out deliveries and even making me soup for the week. Food is important, friends who understand this = damn good friends.
I certainly indulged in some things (wine, chocolate, good beer) over the last few weeks as coping. I've also been doing some random baking- Chocolate stout cupcakes for the win. Luckily I've been ramping up training for Memphis so there is extra calorie burning going on.
 Again, I need to express the gratitude for my friends. Letting me seriously babble and vent constantly with everything going on. Saints I tell you, saints.
Then there was the sucker punch. Spending time getting to know someone and growing much closer only to....woops there goes the rug. Get the news they're moving out of state for a new job offer. When it was finally 'see you later' (NOT 'goodbye') time- it looked a hell of a lot like the season 6 finale.

So while things have certainly been harder lately- I've got kick ass family and friends. I'm grateful for the time I get with them, and won't take that for granted. In the midst of it all I have been doing my best to stay on track with life and training- Something I haven't always been good about in the past. Minor alterations here and there, but sticking to the plan for the most part- even if it means early mornings/late nights or running around the block a million times. Old me would have dropped workouts, changed everything and wallowed. I'm certainly kicking like hell to keep my head above water- but at least I'm getting a good workout in the process.

24 days till' wheels up and Memphis bound- pretty sure it's going to be an incredibly therapeutic weekend full of Blues, BBQ, Bourbon and Marathon running. Until then, back to the grind! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

East Avenue Grocery Run

While this is a race recap, the nice part about it was mentally I didn't treat it as such. When discussing my November plans with coach, I said I could race again before Memphis but wasn't a MUST. So when I got my schedule for the month, I saw he added a 5k on Saturday the 1st but had it listed as a second workout of the week. There was no bold fonts, no highlighted fields or time goals like normal when a race is on the plan. Plain and simple, I was not to stress about this or do anything except go into it as a workout with a few hundred friends tagging along.

There was no race week plan, I did 3x2 mile repeats a few days before this so I had no idea what Saturday would bring. Halloween was the night before, I worked both jobs but luckily was out at a decent time. Home, relax and probably asleep by midnight- not too shabby. The morning came quick and it was cold but the short commute to the race took away any concerns about timing. 

I didn't even register until race morning (I always register ahead to decrease stress and/or things I have to do in the morning), this helped keep my brain in check regarding the goals for the morning. So I registered, jogged around for a warm-up while debating on calf sleeves vs. no calf sleeves (#runnprobs). In the end I went without, luckily my calves loosened up after some strides. 

I lined up near the front, and figured we would see what happens. At first the temperature wasn't too bad, made through the first few turns (quite a few for a 5k if you ask me) and then the wind came. But I just kept telling myself it was a workout, not that I didn't want to do well but I wanted to focus on the goal. The goal was not to kill myself the day before a long run. Stay loose, stay warm, keep form in check and run fast. GOT IT.
Roughly a tenth of a mile into the race, stellar.
My first mile was my fastest and then it just faded. I won't blame the wind (we all had it), but I did keep steady effort throughout the race. I went back and forth with this one girl a few times, and then the last time I pulled ahead I just wanted to be done (Helllooooo Coffee).

I think I have a bunch of race photos with me and this girl near each other in various races. We pace off each other well.
I finished in 19:49 as 6th female and first in my age group. Not too shabby for a "non-race" race. While yes I worked hard and I wouldn't say I 'slacked' with it not being a goal race- I know that I didn't go for broke. Mentally I needed that, low stress but a good time and to feel strong. 

Channeling positive thoughts is so important for Memphis for me right now. Having the killer half marathon PR/W under my belt, and a solid unforced 5k are certainly helpful. The next few weeks are some busy weeks of life and training but I feel like I have a good grip on how things are going. Less than one month till go time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This isn't a typical race recap, it's also a few weeks behind- sorry about that. I assume the embarrassing photos of myself dressed as a troll will more than make up for the delay though.

This was my 6th year running this race (last years post has a photo recap of first 5). It's a fun local race, for a great cause (Youth sports, and the Breast Cancer Foundation). I was really excited to have my sister back this year for it, more fun when we dress like idiots together!

Meg and I went back and forth on costume ideas, and finally settled on trolls.  Why you ask? Because, again we really like dressing like idiots.

I had gone to a concert the night before, indulged in a little whiskey and dark beer- but was up and at it (and texting my sister "BRING COFFEE". She came over and we got to work. Let me tell you, you never realize how long your hair is, and how much you have- until you try and make it stand up. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking, ENJOY.

There was a lot of upside down.

A pop bottle hidden in all of my hair.

A LOT of hairspray.

A lot of fumes in a small room. Great, let's get high on paint and hairspray before running a 5k, SOLID.

But the end product, totally worth it.

We got so many looks, as most people thought we were naked. Fun times. 

We met up with my sisters hubby, and some of our friends before the race.

We run this for fun and not for time when we do this together- so we set out chatting and enjoying the miles and everyone else's costumes. I even took some running selfies as I ran with my phone (which I never do in a race). My friend Bill (aka Clark Kent) ran with us and we had a blast!

Sister Shenanagins for the win.
I do believe out of all the times we have done this one together, this was our best costume. What on earth will we come up with next year?!

Please tell me you remember troll dolls?!?!
(some people had no idea!?)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Striking While The Iron is Hot

My last few posts have been race recaps, and the one after this will be as well (albeit a slightly different kind of one, hello trolls). So I'll throw in some training talk for a little filler this week, and because I'm kind of running another marathon in less than 6 weeks....NBD. 

After Rochester, recovery went pretty damn good. A full week off really did wonders, and then truly easing back into things for a few weeks. Deep down I knew the iron was still hot though, I knew Rochester wasn't it... Don't get me wrong, my PR at Rochester was really solid but I truly feel like I was just warming up. A decent 5k, and then a half-marathon PR/win kind of back up that feeling in case anyone (myself included) was questioning it. That's not to say the last few weeks have been perfect, because that certainly isn't the case. But feeling the 'heat' is a really good feeling heading into Memphis- I cannot wait to drill out one last 26.2 mile race this year.

The few 'low mileage' weeks were nice after Rochester, I had some more time on my hands which I can say for certain that I didn't do a ton with(Unless you count a few seasons of Gilmore girls as productive). Recovery and easing back into training were nice- but I craved more of the routine that I thrive off of (life of a busy body).

This last week of October and the first few weeks of November are the 'meat' of this short training cycle though. By meat I mean prime rib, fillets and throw in some crab legs to make it a surf and turf--QUALITY meat. The intensity of the workouts and long runs I will be doing, are quality that will prepare me for a helluva race come December 6th. While looking over the schedule coach sent me, I certainly winced a few times "I can't do that!" but then pushed those thoughts away. I asked for this. I asked for the race, this plan and this chance to nail down the things I wish I did at Rochester

Saw someone post this on Facebook and thought it was incredibly fitting.
Physically I've been making big strides the last few months. Training hard, but staying healthy and on track. My mental game has seen more strides in the last few weeks though. Eliminating unnecessary stress, unnecessary drama and unhealthy aspects of my life as much as possible. Mentally getting back in MY game and not trying to play everyone else's games too. 

This past weekend was the mid point between Rochester and Memphis. I celebrated the mid point- by focusing on life a little more. It was a fun and necessary weekend, I even ditched my run on Friday. First one in MONTHS. Timing was hard (but not impossible), and I generally just needed a day off....So, I didn't run and the world kept spinning. Then the weekend involved a costume 5k, a lot of work, and finished with football and great company of friends throughout the day. It really was just what I needed.

This week is a step towards the bigger weeks, some more workouts and one more race[5k] (last race until Memphis). Starting next week the long runs get LONG again (22 miles) and back into long mid-week tempos with killer weekend mileage to boot. 6 weeks, 4.5 more of serious work and then taper.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Empire State Half Marathon 2014 Recap

This might be the quickest I've gotten a recap up- but I'm pretty sure the runner's high is still peaking and well- that creates a LOT of thoughts after the race. I wanted to get this all down before it fades into the abyss known as "post-race-runner-brain"- definitely feeling like a space cadet today!

So yesterday I ran the Empire State Half Marathon in Syracuse, NY. This was my third time running this race, as I ran in 2011 and 2013. Last year I ran this race with my sister as her first post-baby race, still one of my best memories- this year will tie that though.

Race Morning
The morning actually went super smooth- which looking back, was a good sign of things to come. I got up without a hitch, had my coffee (in the shower), and got ready and was on the road around 5:45. I got incredibly lucky- the weather/road conditions were good, the thruway was clear and I didn't stress one bit on the drive. This was a HUGE relief, because last time I went to 'Cuse for a half- I white knuckled through a blizzard the whole time and my whole body cramped from stress. Lord knows I didn't wanna deal with that again.

I quickly found Heather at the race, we hit the bathrooms and then pretty much hung out in the warm car until I needed to get a warm-up run in outside. I did an easy bit, and then some strides as planned. Much like the 5k I did the week prior- my legs felt good during warm-up strides which was confidence boosting.

I lined up right behind starting line and shortly after- it was time to go. I let loose a bit at the start, wanting to get through the crowd and around the first few turns before settling into a pace. The headwind started pretty much as soon as we hit the Onondaga Lake Parkway (as expected). This was a little daunting mentally because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I stuck behind some guys but realized it was too slow. So I ended up essentially running into the wind myself. I could see the lead female up in the distance as she had a cyclist with her, but I didn't think much about it.

When we got near the Salt museum I saw Heather's friend Megan cheering. I knew she would be there, and I had asked her that morning if she could have a shot of whiskey waiting if it was cold out. I asked where it was, bystanders laughed. She then looked at her watch and told me the lead woman was about 40 seconds ahead of me. Again, I didn't give it much thought at this point. I just focused on running a comfortably hard pace into the wind. My quads were numb and I just kept telling myself "get to the turnaround".
Cold red quads in the wind
I could hear coaches words in my head. "You need to be grinding when you get to the 10k". This, combined with knowing that at the turnaround (half) I'd have tailwind kept me going. I passed the second female around mile 6, and hit the turnaround only 20 or so seconds behind the leader. NOW, I was thinking about it.

As we were coming back and passing everyone coming towards us, the other runners were so incredibly encouraging. Yelling my place, cheering along and smiling away. Heather gave a big cheer as we passed each other and I was so happy to see her- she looked great and could tell it was going to be good day for both of us.

At this point I wasn't questioning "IF" about the lead, but "WHEN" I could/should. I finally brought the gap to a close, and took the lead a little after mile 8.  Then it hit me....this was happening. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on pushing and not letting her come back. I was breathing heavily, and my heart rate sky rocketed a few times- I literally said BREATHE and told myself to calm the flip down.  I saw Megan again on the way back, I smiled when I saw her face when she realized it was me with the cyclist and not the other girl. I threw my hands up, asking again where the whiskey was- she laughed and then told me to get going! Apparently I needed to focus on the finish and THEN the whiskey- who knew!

The last few miles it was essentially me and my cyclist. She was riding a little further in front of me than I would have liked, I could have used some company. I wanted to be done, I was getting tired but kept going. "The last 5k should be tough" was floating through my head, coach checking in again. The cyclist looped around and I could tell she was getting my bib number and then saw her radio in to the finish. HOLY SHIT- this is happening. As we went through the last few turns she was yelling "first female" to people, and they cheered and waved- I have to admit, it was a cool feeling.

Before the last turn to the straightaway, a woman was screaming and cheering for me- I gave her a look and just said "is she close?". She looked around behind me and smiled and screamed "no where near you, GO!". The home stretch was full of a lot of omg-omg-omg moments. I get to call my parents and tell them I won. I get to tell my coach that I won. I get to tell my friends and everyone else who supports me- I won. OMG all those long tempos that made me want to die, they're paying off today. WHAT?
Almost positive this is when I gave that lady the look- wondering if I was safe. As my mother always says, I can't do anything without my tongue hanging out #classy
When I finally saw the clock, there was a twinge of "bummed". While it was a PR, I knew that a lost some time with the wind on the way out, and that perhaps I was too conservative.  Believe me when I say that twinge disappeared very quickly though. I saw the tape being held up, I knew I was about to PR and I was about to win. The smile here says it all- this is happening.

I threw my hands up, smiled and tried to hold back the tears and also kept thinking "Don't look like an idiot!". (read: no blubbery crying face! no goofy face! For the love of god do NOT stop your garmin right now).
Smiling like a fool, trying not to cry like a baby. Also, raising the roof.
 Immediately after finishing, THE Kathrine Switzer threw her arm around me and congratulated me. I couldn't stop smiling, and I still can't. I grabbed a space blanket and meandered around the finish chute while sharing congrats with others.
This woman....incredible.
I then quickly (relatively) went to my car and bundled up with warm clothes and grabbed my phone. Let's just say my mom thought something was wrong because I mumbled half crying and smiling like an idiot- then she finally understood me and was screaming happy things. I then made my way back to the finish quick, and cheered in Heather! I was so psyched to see her run a solid time and finish feeling good- I also got to meet her dad who showed up! We sat in her car blasting the heat while we thawed out waiting for awards. I received a very cool glass 'trophy' for winning, and Heather got a sweet plaque for taking 2nd in her Age group!
1st Female, 11th Overall (out of ~1100)
Gun time: 1:28:46 (6:46 pace)
Net time: 1:28:44 (6:46 pace) [30+ sec PR] [7 min course PR]
Garmin: 1:28:47 for 13.24 (6:42 pace)
Pacing: 1st half all splits were between 6:43-6:57
2nd half splits were between 6:32-6:37 (with one at 6:45)

Post- Race Thoughts
I never went into this race with even thought of winning. I'm well aware that this was a 'pedestrian time' for this race, this time wouldn't have put me in top 10 last year. Yeah, there's that. BUT I will not sit here and discount my accomplishment. Yesterday, I was the first female finisher and ran a personal best time. I worked hard for my time, and in the last 5 miles of that race I built a 2 minute lead over second place. I played to my strengths yesterday. I was conservative, tactical and knew to take advantage of the wind for my negative splits. I am incredibly proud of this race, I did what I set out to do- and then some. I squeaked in under coaches goal time- and more importantly, I focused on the things I wish I had done in the full at Rochester a few weeks ago (which was the best thing coach could have told me to do). I stayed relaxed, calmed myself down when needed, ran strategically, and I didn't doubt myself. Physically I think I've been where I need to be the last few months- but the mental grit hasn't been there. I think it's safe to say this 'test race'/'tune-up' went as good as it could have, and I have no doubt that I can carry this grit to Memphis in December for the full.
Post- race with my partner in crime. I've officially dubbed Heather my lucky charm. She has been there for my last 3 half PR's, and last 3 full marathon PR's. For the record, I FINALLY got my whiskey after the race- owner of the bar did one with Heather and I!

I want to thank everyone for the AMAZING support, I was truly overwhelmed. Texts, calls, emails, social media explosions, it means so much. I'm a glowing proud runner today, but know that I wouldn't be without the friends/family I have to help me along the way. In fact many of my friends, family, and coach were all in my head during the race-all the things you guys say to me, I remember it and use it as fuel. Cheesy but true.
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