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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Scarecrow 5k Recap

I'm actually going to recap a 5k, WHAT.  Me and 5k's haven't been friends this year- at all. Maybe it's because I have been focusing so much on distance, but the idea of a 20 minute or less race should excite me more than it does. Hello 5k pain-train.

I actually got excited for this race though. I've run it before a few times(3 times), I knew I would see friends, I knew that the weather was going to be good, and more than anything I would be running on fresh legs. Recovery after Rochester has been really good. I took time off, I did some easy running and then did 2 shorter workouts the week before this 5k. Nothing like low miles and extra rest for some pep in your step.

The goal for this race wasn't a PR, the goal (for me) was to feel good, strong and controlled. If I am being honest, I haven't had a good feeling race since the spring- perhaps even before that. Yes, that even includes my half PR from May and Marathon PR from a few weeks ago- neither of them felt 'stellar'. So I wanted to smile, enjoy it, push and genuinely feel good about racing again.

The morning was perfect- 40's with sunshine. Nothing like crisp fall air for a good race. It's only a 15 minute drive to the race in Fairport which made the morning go smoothly. I got there, warmed up for about 15 minutes with my friend Joe and then changed and made my way to the start. I did my strides as planned, and noted that my legs felt loose even with the chill in the air. I got into a fast but not too fast groove right off the bat, this is a small race which allows you to find your stride easier/sooner.

First mile has a few turns but nothing too bad. There was a guy yelling splits at the first mile......"5:45...5:46" I looked down and my watch said 1 mile...6:13. Obviously this man started his watch late- I'm so glad I decided to wear my watch (I considered running watchless for less pressure), I would have been pissed if I went out that fast (one day I know I can make a sub-6 pace for a 5k, but that day is not now). Anyways...

I passed 2 girls shortly after the first mile which put me in 3rd place. I made it my goal not to let any girl pass me back- top 3 are in the money, and let's be honest I wanted to place well. After the hairpin turn (mile 1.5?) I tried picking it up a bit but not crazy. I passed the second place girl around mile 2, and then kept my eyes on my guy friends I could see ahead of me a bit.

Felt good the last stretch and pushed but didn't kill myself. 2nd place female and a 19:36, coming in 3 seconds ahead of coaches goal. I had gas left in the tank but felt really good, and it gave me a confidence boost for the half next weekend. We are using Empire State Half Marathon as a baseline for the rest of training between now and Memphis Marathon, so it's going to be a good test.

After the race, I chatted with friends and then did a cool down with Joe while we waited for awards. $75 for 19 minutes of work, I'll take it.

This race is in support of local programs that assist those affected by domestic violence. They had enough balloons there for the race, to account for 20% of the women in the field of runners. They did this because 20% of women will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime. That number is stupid high and it needs to change. It's not an easy thing for people to talk about, but those are the things we NEED to be talking about. It's been on the news a lot lately, unfortunately involving some well known people (NFL players). Don't be afraid to talk about it, or reach out for help. Rochester has a few programs to help others, look and see if your city has them too. You can use the resources or help others in need.
Overall I got exactly what I wanted/needed from this race. I walked away with confidence in my racing abilities, and general happiness about running. This is great timing to feel that way heading into an important half next weekend and less than 2 months out from my next marathon. The mind is a powerful thing- don't ever doubt that. The consistency in my running/training has been there for months now- but getting my mental game on a consistent level needs some work. Here we go!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bridesmaid Recovery & Back Into Training

Good old marathon recovery- the food, drinks, laziness.

After the marathon, one of the first things coach said to me was "I don't want you to even think about running for a week". Normally this might bother me, but this time I was grateful for the break. I knew that mentally and physically it would be really good for me, it was a long training cycle and a hard race. So, I listened. I took a full week off of running, first time that had happened since after CIM last December.

After Boston, my recovery was very different than normal. I dove right back in head first, while it worked out I wasn't willing to try that method again. I think back then, it was the best thing(mentally more than anything, hello life falling apart) and it led me to some amazing changes in my running and got me through some hard personal times.

So...Rochester Recovery this time around....

Week 1
I did a little cross training at the gym. Elliptical and ESPN for the win.

I slept, I ate, and I wore compression while doing both of those things.

I spent some time with friends, and also alone. I also wore compression while doing these things.

I'm pretty sure the best part of my recovery was letting loose the weekend after the race. It's not that I didn't drink, or that I didn't have fun while training- but my life was certainly more focused on the task at hand (training for a marathon). Sometimes you just need to forget about running and training and just embrace the other things in life. Like staying out way too late and feeling super old after the fact (how did I do these shenanigans when I was younger?)

At least we drank orange juice for some vitamins right?

So, I did my duty and shimmied my way into my Bridesmaid dress for a good friend's wedding. For that weekend, I didn't think about running. I drank, laughed (a lot), danced (even more), didn't eat properly, and didn't sleep much either. Recovery done right? Probably not, I think I needed more recovery from the bender of a weekend than I did the marathon. Worth it? Absolutely.

After the wedding was done the post-marathon blues set in a little. The dust had settled and I was like oh, wait what do I do now. I've had PMB after every one I have done in some way shape or form. Good friends, some little runs, and planning things to look forward to always helps.

Week 2
When I did run again, it was shorter and slower and completely unforced. Fall weather is my favorite for running so that makes this easier!
Week two of recovery involved some easy runs, and getting my mind and body back into the swing of things. No insane miles but felt good to be doing SOMETHING.

Now recovery is fading back into 'training' and mentally that just feels like rainbows and unicorns.

Week 3
Technically this wasn't a recovery week, but it was still building back up into training. I did my first workout since the marathon (Mini tempo run, as well as 200m intervals) which felt really good to move faster again. My legs are feeling fresh (thank you, low mileage) and ready to start working again.

I also ran a 5k race, I'll actually recap that this week. It wasn't nearly as horrendous as the 5k's I did over the summer (which I wrote craptastic recaps and subsequently never published and sent them to the blogging underworld known as 'trashed posts'). I was actually happy with how it went, and it felt oh so good to be running and feeling positive again!

So, I'm now on my 4th week out from Rochester, which leaves me with less than 55 days until Marathon #10 in Memphis. My excitement is growing more and more for this race as the days go by. The hard work over the last 6 months (and longer, but especially since Boston) is now paying off. Give me some cooler weather, more workouts and this growing positive 'tude I have and that's a fantastic recipe for some things to come.

I've also been totally geeking out on everyone else's races the last few weeks. Kona coverage, Chicago, Steamtown, so many awesome races lately. Love seeing people do well and push through, and also following along with those still in training- inspiring people around me I tell ya.

Anyone else in recovery or getting back into training as well?

Did you watch Kona or Chicago coverage?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Next: ends with a T as in.... TENnessee.

This year has been nothing as I had planned going into it. Life changes, personal changes, training happens. After Boston things really changed with my running. Consistency, solid training, hacking my race calendar (cutting out tri's mainly), and focus led me down a solid road to the fall season.

Rochester Marathon came and went, well...kind of. 16 weeks of training and then 3 hours, 11 minutes and 43 seconds of racing and then it went. It just didn't 'go' quite as planned.

Let's call this year a marathon repeat of 2013. Spring Marathon (no PR goal, but solid time), early fall marathon PR(but finishing with a little bit of 'what if?') followed by.....late fall marathon for 'one more strike while the iron is hot'.

2013: # 5 Cleveland (3:25), #6 Wineglass (3:17*PR), #7 CIM (3:13*PR)
2014: #8 Boston (3:20), #9 Rochester (3:11*PR), #10 Memphis Marathon

I'm sure some of you are shaking your heads. We all know I love this distance, and I am a stubborn goal driven person- but you can't tell me this actually surprises you.

After Rochester, I had that 'unsettled' feeling in my stomach like I did last year after Wineglass. Of course happy for the PR, and solid race plan execution but that same "I didn't meet my goal" kind of thing. Last year that goal was 3:15 because of a sponsorship I was vying for. So, across the country I went 9 weeks later...and sub 3:15 I went (although, the sponsorship still didn't happen as the time standard changed).

This year, Sub-3:10 was that goal. Not for a sponsorship, not for some qualifying standard- but for ME. Obviously that didn't happen at Rochester but some of the factors were things I couldn't control (rain, wind, humidity etc.)but also some that I could control (and know I can change). So there next to the post-race Guinness and KitKats sat "I missed my goal by less than 2 minutes". I may have digested the chocolate and beer by now, but not the feeling of "what if".

Remember when this tweet happened? Way back in July- Like I said... I've been "in it" for this race since well before Rochester. But yeah, missing my goal in Septemeber certainly added some fuel to the fire.

I applied for entry into Memphis back in the Spring. I was interested in the race originally because I knew some people in the area, and well- that always makes running more fun. I had also met qualifications(sub-90 half was one of them) to be granted the title as one of the "Elite" women in the race. While things may have changed since then- I wasn't ready to just throw this chance away. We get one life folks- and right now I have the ability to allow running to be a huge part of my life. I'm truly grateful for that too.


While in recovery from Rochester there was a lot of back and forth about Memphis. Going around and around with my coach, friends, family and also within myself. Is it too soon? Is it too much? Is it worth it? There were some concerns, but also a lot of "well, what if's". So we decided to strike while the iron is hot. I feel good, and I feel like with some more solid training- lining up in December could be a really good thing.

Coach and I laid out a 'loose' plan for the next 12-14 months, and taking one more stab at it this year actually fits. But this is it-next year is a whole new ball game.  As much as I love the distance, I can't just run one whenever I want and expect to improve like I know I am capable of.  So next year- two marathons. Boston for a COURSE PR, and an undecided mid-to-late fall marathon for a big PR attempt. I'm really excited for next year and the plans we have and the changes that will be made. It's time to start reaching for the next level, and training accordingly.

But for now- I've got one more shot this year at the marathon and I am going to take this amazing opportunity I have to do so. Obviously- I'm smart enough to know I can't guarantee that Memphis will be the PR I know that I have in me. But I also know I'd regret not trying.

Seeing as this is the third time I have done 3 marathons/year I have a little experience. 2011(8 weeks apart), 2013(9 weeks apart) and now 2014(11 weeks apart), but luckily this year- I have a lot more help. I have a great coach whom I trust to guide me and help me follow a plan to get to the start line on 4th/Beale as prepared as I can be. I have great friends to support me and help me as I dive back into training one more time this year. So I won't exactly be flying by the seat of my pants as in the past- but it certainly will keep me busy for the fall (which, I LOVE).

So, two months from today I will be running Marathon number TEN in Memphis, TENnessee. Cute coincidence.

Last year the race was cancelled due to freak weather (as was Dallas Marathon)---[I actually remember sitting in my hotel room with Heather going "please don't let ours be cancelled too"- obviously our race stayed on but it WAS unseasonably cold (Snow on buses, ice at water stops, and general stupid cold for CA). That was just a weird weekend for weather around the U.S.]. So this year I gather many of last years would be participants will be there, so fingers crossed for better weather and a great day for everyone :)

So here we go again, I'm VERY excited to get back into routine. Get back to the training and the grind. Back to the running with a purpose and focusing on my goals. Hi, my name is Laura and I am addicted to running towards goals. Memphis is supposed to be a great race, all for a great cause and in a very cool city. It will be a great weekend away in December, looking forward to every second of it!

Anyone else running St. Jude Memphis Marathon/Half Marathon or Relay?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rochester: Post-Race

Slacking, again.

Anyways, I pretty much said most of what I needed to about the race in the recap. If you don't want to read the novel length recap- the short of it is.... I ran, I ran faster, it rained, I ran a little slower and then faster, and I finished with a 3:11. BUT, some of the best parts actually came after the race.

Obviously stoked about my PR and 4th place finish, can't complain about putting a little $$ back in my pocket. Roughly made $7.63 per mile, or less than $0.25/mile if we count the training miles too. This race also marked the second marathon I have placed top 5 in (took 5th at Marshall University in 2012). While they are small races, I'm still proud of that accomplishment.

Getting hugs from family and friends (sorry, I was sweaty and rain soaked...thanks for the hugs anyways guys!) and seeing so many other awesome Rochester people out there cheering. A lot of friends who ran the half hung around to cheer for the full marathon and that meant a lot to myself and other runners. People make a difference, can't deny that.

I also really enjoyed cheering for my sister and running her in for approximately 100 feet before Heather yelled at me (you know, I may have just run a marathon...that kind of thing) and took over for me. But I still got to run and cheer for my sister none the less- she ran a 2 minute PR and just barely missed a BQ. We had worked together on her training this summer and it was so great to see that effort pay off.

My sister on the right hauling ass to the final turn like a boss. Note my dad in the background jumping up on the curb to run to finish to meet us.
I also got to run in others, even in flip flops. I didn't care, supporting those who have supported me is incredibly important. Finish line hugs will always be some of the best, good race or bad- having someone there is really special.

Of course a photo of me, my sister and my nephew/godson.  

Of course I have to give a shout to these two ladies. Britt and Heather were amazing race crew for the weekend. Fueling with me, making sure I hydrated, wardrobe decisions, sleeping in my tiny apartment, early wake up call, driving around and cheering, dancing like a boss, keeping my coach updated on my progress via text, carrying my bag around for me after, running with my sister, ALL of it. They even went to the post-race party at the bar with me after and watched football- although I didn't really have to twist their arms for that. Runners, they're good people.

There are a million and one people I need to thank for this race, this training cycle and everything that went into it. I can't possibly name them all here, but please know how grateful I am. Whether it was going out on runs with me, holding me accountable during training, sending me encouraging messages, making sure I had everything I needed, making me meals, just all of it. I didn't do this thing alone, not in the least.

If I get my blogging act together, I'll fill you in on recovering with a bridesmaids dress/champagne and the usual question of....what's next (because we all know I'm a running junkie and can't get enough).

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