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.


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 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.
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