Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Set fire to the rain - Shamrock Race Recap

When you know rain is in the forecast for a big race, the first thing you when you open your eyes on race day is reach over, grab your phone, and check the radar.

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The second thing you do is curse like a sailor.

Omg made me pee I laughed so hard:

The third thing you do is poop.  

The fourth thing you do is remember how incredible it felt to finish last year's Shamrock in horrendous conditions, and that you'll have a dear friend and bad ass mother runner by your side from start to finish this time.  So the fifth thing you do is start putting on your battle gear and psyching yourself up to do work.  Right after you poop again.  

This race morning felt different from the get go.  I slept like the dead the night before and my typical race day nausea was minimal.  I ate every bite of my bagel before we even left the house and my coffee was going down nice and easy, too.  A few additions to my dry bag later, Teresa was out front, ready to take me and Ryan to the oceanfront.  

We were parked by just after 6am, so we waited in the warm car for about 30 minutes while we watched the rain blow sideways in the glow of the street lights.  We made a quick stop at the Hilton to use the bathroom one last time, wished Ryan good luck, and high tailed it to the start.  Somewhere along the way, I ditched my poncho and throw away clothes (best decision ever, right after the decision to keep my gloves in my kangaroo pocket until it was time to run) and jumped in our corral with about a minute and a half to spare.  Unlike last year, I wasn't soaked to the bone before the gun even went off, so chalk one up in the win column for learning from last year's mistakes.

Just like that, we were off and running.  The last thing I remember hearing the race announcer Leprechaun Bob say was "Work together!"  It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of.  On a day like that, where the head wind is fierce for the first few miles, it's in your best interest to tuck in with a group and let them take the brunt of it for you.  Despite my tiny stature, I've always had a tough time doing that...I think I just like my space and want plenty of it when I'm working hard.  There were definitely times in that first mile where I found myself drifting over to the side for some breathing room, but I heard Bob's "work together" in my head and scooted back in with the pack.  

While I didn't have a goal finish time in mind for this race (other than knowing I could run faster than the 1:45 I ran last year), I had some goal paces in mind for the first half of the race.  I wanted to be smart at the start and keep it near an 8 minute mile as we headed north on Atlantic Avenue for the first three miles.

Mile 1:  8:02
Mile 2:  8:01
Mile 3:  8:04*

*Thank you, brave crowd of spectators lining Atlantic Avenue at 80th Street, especially you, Kristy (and later you, Steve)!

I knew once we turned onto Shore Drive, we'd get a break from the wind and I could drop the pace a little.  I didn't want to be gassed turning into Fort Story, but if I could get down to a 7:45 and hold it on Shore Drive, I thought I'd be in good shape once I got onto the Fort.

Mile 4:  7:48
Mile 5:  7:51

Somewhere just past mile 5, I took off a glove to try to get my gu open.  My hands were frozen and not working well, so I made Teresa earn her keep (ha!) and asked her to open it for me.  Continued for a bit with my glove partially on my hand until I could shimmy it all the way back on.

Mile 6:  7:43

We made the turn onto Fort Story and I was feeling good.  I knew there'd be some tough spots until the road turned south and our tailwind kicked in, so I did my best to just hold steady.  

Mile 7: 7:53

Although my pace had slowed a little, I was still feeling strong so there was no need to panic.  Once we got past the section of the course that's closest to the bay (you know, the part where there is absolutely nothing to protect you from the gale force winds coming off the water or the accompanying sandstorm), the road started making its turn back to the south and that glorious tailwind gave us a nice little shove toward the exit of the base.  We passed between the lighthouses and a DJ on the course was pumping some "Sympathy for the Devil," which was just enough music to refresh my brain and body (and I think that gu I nursed was finally starting to work its magic).

Mile 8:  7:37
Mile 9:  7:31*

*Not sure whether my wrist was numb or my watch was too cold to function, but I never felt it buzz for mile 9.  I didn't need to know how fast I was going at this was time to move.

We left the quiet base and returned to civilization...the weather kept the spectators to a minimum, but I saw Kristy again and her voice made up for everyone who stayed home that morning.  She was screaming at the top of her lungs for me and her big smile powered me through that next stretch of the course.  

Heading south on Atlantic is make it or break it time.  It's when you really have to work hard to keep your focus as people around you start to fatigue and cramp and fall off to the side.  My mental math skills were getting a little hazy, and thinking we had to be getting close to that 10 mile marker, I glanced down at my watch.  10.57 miles.  Hell yeah!  Teresa told me no more looking at my watch and I was happy to oblige.  It was hard to read with raindrops all over the face of it, and it simply didn't matter what my pace was anymore.  It was just time to fly.

Mile 10:  7:38

I think somewhere between miles 10 and 11 is when I saw Steve on his bike, making his way up to where Kristy was camped out.  Once he realized it was me, he turned around and yelled at me (or maybe just said in normal Steve volume?)  to "Drop the fucking hammer."  Like, repeatedly.  

Mile 11:  7:37
Mile 12:  7:39

This was it.  Anything I had left in me was going to be left on that course.  Mile 12 was literally where the gloves came off and I started to gloves were cold and wet and not doing a thing for my hands anyway, so they were thrown aside.  We turned at the Cavalier and had a few more blocks til we hit the home stretch of the boardwalk.  I saw Teresa check her watch a couple of times, and it was always followed by either a giggle or a "dude..."   Once I was close enough to the finish to read the clock, I saw that it was ticking up and up, 1:41:54...1:41:55.  Having run so many races recently where my time has seconds in the single digits, I told that clock "Not today, mother fucker!" and dug in. I wasn't hitting 1:42 after all that hard work!

Not today, mother fucker!

Mile 13:  7:17
Last 0.1:  6:38

Hammer = dropped

Turns out I didn't have to push that hard to officially come in under chip time was a few seconds behind the gun time, so I ended up finishing in 1:41:38.  Which I find hilarious because when I started training back in December, I wrote a goal time of 1:38 on my training calendar...because seeing is achieving, right?  I got my 1:38, but the running gods got jokes about how they gave it to me.

I crossed the finish line with a sweet runner's high coursing through my veins.  I wanted to hug anyone and everyone, and I started with Teresa, followed by Amy Frostick (the A in J&A).  

This girl...tough as nails, heart of gold

Shamrock Half Marathon #5
1:41:38 (second fastest)
Overall:  328/5445
Female:  78/3280
Female 35-39:  15/559

My dry bag truck was an eternity away, and getting changed into dry clothes was a bit of a production.  But the buzz in that changing tent was strangers who had all just been through hell were smiling, laughing, and helping each other get changed.  It was such an incredible thing to be a part of.  

Teresa and I made our way to the tent where beer and Murphy's Irish stew awaited us.  I took a glance over at the PR bell on the beach and promised it I'd be back to ring it next time (I also promised someone I'd run the Crawlin' Crab half with her this fall and PR the hell out of it after doing a shot of Fireball, but that's neither here nor there).  There was zero disappointment in the outcome of this race.  I finished 13.1 miles in a total shit storm of conditions with an average pace I struggled to maintain for more than 2 miles just a month ago.  And I did it with one of my real life heroes by my side.  Feeling pretty lucky.  

60 Free St. Patrick's Day printables:

And for your further enjoyment, these kiddos has a pretty amazing Shamrock weekend as well:

Brynn's 2nd 8k 
Overall: 3014/7766
Female:  1386/4761
Female 10 & under:  21/116

 Camryn's 3rd Operation Smile Final Mile
Overall:  954/3742
Female:  294/1902

Friday, February 17, 2017

Just a little patience

I don't consider myself a patient person.  Optimistic, yes.  Realistic, yes.  Patient, not so much.  I like seeing results.  Immediately.  Even if the work has just started, I want to see a teeny glimmer that I'm on the right track and the effort is worthwhile.  

progress not perfection | Patti Murphy Designs:

If running has taught me anything, it's that most times you don't see immediate results.  You work and work and sweat and suffer and nothing seems to change.  This time last year, I was coming off my second consecutive fall season spent getting back into running after training errors led to injury.  I was so happy to be running consistent, pain free miles that pace was of little importance to me.  I ran a respectable 1:45 Shamrock half last year in the worst weather conditions I've personally experienced on race day, and I chalked it up to running smart miles all winter and being healthy when I toed the starting line (the oh so wet, windy starting line).  

I had a strong, steady spring and was excited to finally run healthy over the summer and reap the rewards of all that sweat equity during my fall races.  I had been patient for over six months and I was ready to let 'er rip and get some speed back into these legs.  The universe had other plans for me though.  Bronchitis came knocking in late May and decided my lungs were a fine place to summer vacation.  I had a cough that lingered for months and I was never able to get quality speed workouts in.  Ever the optimist, I was still running injury free and let that be my summer achievement.  Sure, the miles were slower than they had been in the past, but I was truly enjoying my runs and thankful nothing was hurting as I entered the fall season.

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October started with a disappointing Crawlin' Crab half marathon but finished with a promising Wicked 10k that left me feeling like I wasn't too far from where I had left off before injury.  I looked forward to the work of building my fitness base for Shamrock, and ran consistent 30 mile weeks during the craziest time of year so when it came time to pick up the pace, my legs would be strong and ready.  

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The holidays came and went, and I dove into my Shamrock training plan with a renewed excitement about the weeks ahead.  My base mileage was already higher than what my peak mileage had been in the past and my legs and feet were feeling fantastic.  But good god was I tired.  I struggled to wake up before 6am for my strength workouts, and my energy level bottomed out by 3pm most days.  My easy runs were still great, but I struggled to hit my paces for speed work and tempo runs.  Most hard days would start off pretty well, but then I'd run out of gas after a few intervals or a mile or two of tempo.  There was always a logical explanation for the shoddy quality of those runs...tired legs from cramming miles into very few days because the kids were home so much, the wind was ridiculous, it was unseasonably warm, I didn't eat enough that morning, yada yada yada.  February has brought no improvement, only my self-proclaimed title of Queen of Positive Splits.  Maybe this is the new normal for me.  Maybe I've already peaked with my speed and now I'm just supposed to acknowledge and accept that I'm getting older and I should just enjoy running and appreciate that my body is still capable of running plenty of healthy miles.  

sad, but true...:

Frustrated and disappointed that I could see my Shamrock goal sinking like the Titanic, the universe has thrown me a door to float on.  Thanks to a routine health screening for a health insurance credit, I've learned my iron levels, while still within the scope of normal, are less than a third of what they were at this time last year. 

Holy shit typography:

Shocking, yes.  Surprising, nope.  Not at all.  It connects all the dots and explains my sluggishness during the day and my running out of gas during my tougher runs.  I couldn't get out to the store for iron supplements fast enough.  Along with really upping the iron-rich foods in my diet, I'll be popping those tablets religiously between now and Shamrock.  The race is a month away and while I do not expect a miracle in the form of a PR (I haven't been running anywhere near PR pace this entire training cycle), I do expect to see an improvement in my endurance and overall energy.  Being healthy enough to race is always the #1 goal of a training cycle, and I'll be celebrating that and the personal victories of so many of my favorite people all Shamrock Weekend.  Until then, I'll be washing my iron supplements down with a big gulp of patience, fingers crossed I'm not the has been I was starting to accept I had become.  

As long as you don't quit, it's not failure It's unfinished Success.:

Friday, December 30, 2016

525,600 minutes

2016.  Seriously.  What was your deal?  The weather, the election, the ever growing death toll of beloved celebrities, Derek Jeter getting married to someone who is not me...come on now!  I sit here on December 30th, holding my breath and waiting for a shitstorm of epic proportions to rain down on us as the final nail in the coffin of this dumpster fire of a year.  The realist in me wants to say to the universe:


But the optimist in me is finding the silver lining.  My family is happy and healthy as we enter the new year, and I could probably end it right there.  There is little else we could ask for.  But since I haven't blogged in about nine months, I'll give you a little more.

2016 turned out to be an incredible year of running for me.  I didn't PR a single race, and I think that was the key to my running happiness this year.  Coming off consecutive summers where I dealt with nagging injuries, my goal for this year was to run healthy all year.  That meant slowing down and starting over, adding mileage slowly and thoughtfully while making strength training a priority.  Mind blowing approach, right?  And by golly if it didn't actually work!  The end result to this crazy plan has been an injury free 12+ months of running and a super strong foundation on which to build my training for the 2017 Shamrock Half Marathon and beyond.  And that's not even the best part!  The best part was how much fun I had saying yes to new adventures because I wasn't worried about a goal race all year.  For example...

In February, I joined a team of three other ladies for a 100k relay race at Bow Creek Golf Course.  62 miles divided by 4 girls, round and round the golf course we ran on a frigid winter day and celebrated a strong finish with champagne inside the toasty clubhouse.

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Team No Pain, No Champagne

In March, I got to run with Brynn for her first Shamrock 8k.  If I had been training to PR the half marathon, it's doubtful I would've agreed to run with her and would've missed this incredible experience.  My girl is fierce, I tell you!  

Loved every step with this kid

As for the half marathon, I let go of my pride and let a pace group pull me through 13.1 miles of cold, driving rain and pace-crushing winds across the finish line.  I had nothing to lose by letting the pacers take the wheel...they were running a 1:45 no matter what, all I had to do was keep them in sight. And with no PR on the line, I gladly accepted the beer handed to me somewhere along Atlantic Avenue. That race was a battle from start to finish, and I keep the memory of it fresh in my head when runs aren't going so well.  

Approaching the finish

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 Celebrating the first of many big finishes for this bunch
  In May, I ran my first trail race...a 10 miler in honor of women who lost their lives in combat for our country. It was a blast running up, down, and all around First Landing State Park, and not having a time goal allowed me to work on racing strategy. I played around with sticking with a pack, leading a pack, and finally breaking away from the pack and reeling in people ahead of me one at a time. A second place age group finish was icing on the cake. 

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Claiming my 2nd place medal  
June brought my family back to Ithaca for the second Gorges Ithaca half marathon. It was an epic trip that could've only been better had I not been battling a heinous wheezing cough for a solid three weeks leading up to the race (and another month after that, I would later learn). The course was different than last year, with a 700+ foot elevation climb late in the race. And again, with a time goal only of "better than last year," I focused on passing as many people as I could in those later miles. I also focused on enjoying a mimosa along the race course for the first time. 

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So great to finally be in a race with this speedy Bomber!

I ran two new races in August, and I will tell you that racing in coastal Virginia in August is a suck fest, plain and simple. The first race was a 5k that was part of J&A Racing's new summer series of races, held each Wednesday morning for 8 weeks during the summer and geared toward the oodles of tourists enjoying their vacation at the beach. I hadn't raced a 5k in forever...and it was obvious when you take a look at my splits. It was a classic tale of starting too fast and then crashing and burning. I was forced to fight to the finish thanks to Bad Ass Mother Runner Barbie, who had no body part left unchiseled and came complete with a baby in a jogging stroller.

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J&A's Summer 5k, humid, hell of a fun time  
The second race in August was a total impulse buy. A brand new tunnel connecting the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth had just opened, and the tunnel authority was celebrating with a 5k through it. The number of participants was limited to just a couple hundred, the price couldn't be beat, and since I had a few friends jumping off that bridge (well, running through that tunnel),  I signed up as well. As race day drew nearer, I started questioning my sanity.  I hate tunnels.  I drive through them often and focus only on getting out as quickly as possible, so why on earth would I want to prolong the process of getting out by running instead of driving?  Because it was a fantastic mental challenge for me and I couldn't pass up the chance to learn and grow from it. What I learned was the incline in a tunnel is steeper than it appears, and the lack of air flow in the middle is suffocating.  It was 3.1 miles of misery, but a really cool experience that allowed me to add "bottom of the Elizabeth River" to the list of places I've run.  

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Running down the tunnel and back to Portsmouth

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October began with my third half marathon of the year, which was a record high for me.  I signed up for the Crawlin' Crab half in the spring with the hopes that we'd have more favorable weather conditions than we did for Shamrock and I could see what these legs were capable of.  However, my summer of running was more about maintaining miles than gaining speed, so I put my PR dreams back on the shelf and focused on running a strong race.  The weather was no friend to us, with temps in the 70s and summer-like humidity, and I had to gut the last half of that race out big time.  It was the first time all year I was actually disappointed in a race time, which could only mean I was ready to start working toward something again.  

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Caution: Weather conditions were way suckier than our smiling faces imply

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor Cartwheeling across the finish line of a half marathon was checked off my running bucket list in 2016

I spent the next few weeks of October focusing on leg strength and working slightly faster runs into my weekly mileage.  I stepped to the starting line of the Wicked 10k with more confidence than I had just a few weeks prior at Crawlin' Crab and ready to let 'er rip.  I ran most of those 6.2 miles right alongside my friend Sara, and each time I felt her push her pace, I dug in an answered with a push of my own.  I felt strong as I crossed the finish line, which is something that hadn't happened since the 10 miler on the trails in May.  I was within a minute of my 10k PR, and the fire to get to work for Shamrock 2017 was stoked.  

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Nasty Women Run

So here we are, 11 weeks away from my next Shamrock half.  My PR dream has been removed from its shelf, dusted off, and written where I can see it every single day.  My training plan is laid out for me on Fancy monthly calendars.  The 1400 miles I logged in 2016 were no accident...they were mindfully planned and executed to serve as the foundation for big goals in 2017 and beyond.  Each month of this past year serves as a reminder of lessons learned as I build upon that foundation:
  • Appreciate a healthy body.  Listen to it.  Treat it well, especially when it seems to be betraying you.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work.  Surround yourself with people who value your goals and encourage you to work for them.  Do the same for them.  And if they provide child care for training runs and races, never let them go.  
  • Say yes to new adventures!  As adults with bills to pay and homes to maintain and kids raise, it's so easy to get caught up in the grind of it all.  We spend so much time, money, and energy trying to give our children experiences to help them learn and grow that we forget that WE still need to learn and grow.  The best way to do that is to try new things, and the bonus is that our kids learn to be brave and open to new experiences by watching us.  When we succeed, we've shown them trying new things is so worth it, even when it's hard.  And if failure is the outcome, it's a chance to show our kids how to handle disappointment with humility and that we humans are resilient.  They're watching.  They're listening.  Maybe not to the parts about cleaning their room and getting ready for bed, but they're listening to the good stuff.  Be the adult you want them to become.  And if you don't have kids, heck, be the adult you want other adults to become, too.  We could use some more good guys around.   
See, 2016 wasn't all bad.  For this mother runner, it was pretty darn good.  The foundation has been laid for new experiences and with hard work (and a little race day magic), perhaps a PR will show up in 2017.