Monday, March 21, 2016

Isn't it ironic?

Running in the rain -  because it is what we do. Go for it! You will always thank yourself later.:  

It's like ra-eee-aaaaain on your half marathon day.  I think it's so ironic that a training cycle full of happy, joyful miles ended with a race that was miserable practically start to finish.  Never before yesterday had I gotten to a starting line and thought "What am I doing here?" while imagining my escape.  I felt puddles in my shoes before I even dropped off my dry gear bag.  I had already ditched my gloves because they had gotten completely soaked just from walking from the car to the start.  I underestimated how long I'd be waiting in the corral before starting and took off my poncho and extra layer too early.  All I could think about was how much the next 100+ minutes were going to suck.  I made my way to the back of corral 1 and wondered how this would all go down.

Then I saw a familiar face holding a sign that would turn out to be my beacon for the entire race.  Total bad ass and fellow mother runner Krista and her husband were standing at the front of corral 2 holding 1:45 signs, a huge pack of runners behind them.  All week long I thought my game plan would be to run near the 1:45 pace group and see what happens.  When I realized these two tough people were leading the charge through the wind and rain, it was a no brainer to let corral 1 go and stick with this group.  I could tuck in behind them and let them block the wind, and I knew Krista would be a tremendous source of encouragement for us all.  

The pacers' plan was to run a steady 8 min/mile pace for 13.1 miles. I knew in my head that starting at an 8 minute pace was a bit fast for me, especially going straight into the wind, but it felt so good to just be moving that I hung with the group.  After crossing mile 1 at exactly 8 minutes, I thought it would be best for me to ease up a little, even if it meant letting the pace group get away from me a bit.  My next few miles were just over an 8 minute mile, and I felt like I was starting to settle into the run as we made the glorious turn onto Shore Drive. Shore Drive's 3 mile stretch was a nice reprieve from the wind, and the trees even blocked a bit of the rain.  But with every passing mile, I knew I was coming up on the toughest part of the course, so I picked up my pace slightly in hopes of putting a little time in the bank.  

Once we turned into Fort Story, I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for the stiff headwind I knew was waiting for me ahead.  I ripped open my GU with my teeth because my hands were numb and completely useless, and slowly sipped on it for most of Fort Story's miles.  The 1:45 pace group was pretty far ahead of me by the time we left the Fort, but I could still see their little signs bobbing up and down.  I tried to keep a steady effort so they wouldn't get too much farther ahead, but the stiff winds coming off the bay had taken some time off my pace.  

The gates at the end of Fort Story may as well have been the pearly gates of heaven...that's how amazing it felt to finish those miles and get on my way to the home stretch.  Once I hit 80th Street, the roar of the spectators lining both sides of the street got me really amped up and actually excited about the miles ahead for the first time all morning.  I got a high five from Kristy's husband, Christian, and grabbed a dixie cup of beer from a friendly spectator.  Carbs are carbs, right?  

 Run for Beer - 8x10 - Retro Typography Running or Beer Quote Print. $15.00, via Etsy.:

The last three miles of Shamrock are always interesting.  I start counting down the blocks to the finish and get really excited, but often times runners who've been with you for the last 10 miles start dropping to the side of the road to stretch their cramping hamstrings and calves.  People who were looking strong through the brutal miles of Fort Story now had the look and posture of defeat as they slowed to a walk.  I think this is exactly where the hometown advantage kicked in for me...I train on those streets.  I train in that wind.  And I was able to withstand the battering we received from the winds on base and have enough left in me to finish strong because of it.  It's the same reason quite a few elite runners dropped out of the race while our local speedsters cruised to great finishes.  

The last mile was a bit of a blur.  The weather kept a lot of spectators at home, and their voices and cowbells were certainly missed as we turned onto Atlantic by the Cavalier.  The stretch from the Cavalier to the turn onto the boardwalk seemed to last an eternity, and we were greeted by a gust of wind off the ocean that had me holding onto my hat.  I took a quick glance at my watch and thought if I could kick hard enough, I might just end up with a 1:45:xx.  The 1:45 pacers were as close as they had been since that first mile, and I focused on catching them before the finish.  The pack behind them had completely thinned out, and I couldn't tell if they had all finished faster or fell behind.  Krista kept looking back for her little ducklings, and I could hear her cheering us on to the finish.  I had little left, as evidenced by this stunning race photo:

 That guy behind me feels my pain!

But the finish line is always a welcome sight and I smiled for that one last photographer. 

 

I crossed the finish in 1:45:02, soaked, shivering, exhausted, and elated.  A week ago, I believed I was capable of a 1:45 if all the stars aligned.  With the weather being what it was at the start, I all but gave up on that time and went into survival mode, with the plan being to just gut this one out.  Some of the best runners in the country were too chicken to even show up for this race.  And the ones that did brave the elements had finish times that were 4 and 5 minutes off their best as well.  The purpose of this race for me this year was never to PR, but instead to see what my baseline is.  It was always meant to be a starting point, not and end goal.  Knowing I can run a 1:45 in those conditions with no speed work in my weekly miles has me so excited about what's to come with some hard work this spring.  After a little rest, of course.

Pacer (and cheerleader) Krista

 Relief!

The post race party is always the best part of these races.  Whether your race was good, bad, or ugly, you know there's good food, cold beer, live music, and good (albeit smelly) friends waiting for you in the tent.  

Me and my Breath of Sunshine

 Post race photo with a giant pink monkey in a Mark Messier jersey, as is tradition.

  
Look up bad ass in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of this girl.  So thankful for her advice and guidance on this running journey of mine.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

So Damn Lucky

Sometimes the blog post inspires the title, sometimes the title comes first and a post is born.  This weekend, the first song that popped up on Pandora as I headed out for an easy run was Dave Matthews' "So Damn Lucky," and this post started writing itself in my head as I put one foot in front of the other.  

It's race week, which means I am out of my mind.  Every emotion sits bubbling at the surface, ready to boil over with the slightest provocation.  The familiar nervous pit is in my stomach, but my heart pounds with excitement that in less than a week, I'll be standing in a big tent on the beach, beer in one hand, Irish stew in the other, shiny new medal around my neck, hugging my favorite stinky people in celebration of surviving another winter training cycle.

The fact you're running outdoors in this weather tells me you have deeper psychological issues.:

I'm feeling so damn lucky that I'm healthy and get to step up to not one, but TWO starting lines this weekend.  I get to cross TWO finish lines.  I get to run beside my daughter for her first 8k.  I get to hear the crowd go nuts when she comes down the homestretch to the finish.  Then I get to watch my other fierce little lady tackle her 1 mile race with her dad.  On Saturday, I get to be coach and cheerleader.  Saturday is for my girls.

 

Sunday though.  Sunday is mine.  Unlike every Shamrock I've done until this point, Sunday is the beginning instead of the end.  This training cycle has been about building up strong, healthy mileage, not about gaining speed.  I'm not looking to PR at Shamrock...I'm looking to run a smart race and cross that finish line feeling strong and hungry for more.  I feel my running foundation is solid and my mind is in a great place right now, and it's incredibly exciting to think that Shamrock is a starting point for me instead of a goal race this time around.  

 Do what you can with what you have where you are 8 x 10 print:

I will do what I can with what I have, and while I have a time range I feel is reasonable, whatever the time on the clock reads when I cross the finish line is where I am right now.  The two weeks it took to recover from the 100k relay last month is still fresh in my mind, so I'll be kind to my body through the month of March, but once April hits, it's game on!  My plan is to carefully add in some speed work and hills to prepare me for the Gorges Ithaca Half in June, and maybe just maybe work my way to a sub-1:40 in the fall. I have learned a tremendous lesson in patience over the past few months, and as long as I don't let myself get caught up in the excitement of trying to kill every single run, I think I'll have a very satisfying running future ahead of me.  

Best of luck to everyone running this weekend!!!


May the Road Rise Up to Meet You. May the Wind Be Always At Your Back. Irish Blessing. Chalkboard St. Patrick's Day Free Printable:






 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Miserable and Magical

Do me a solid and completely overlook the fact that I haven't written a blog post in over 5 months.  Thanks.

 So much has happened in those few months...too much to recap in one post.  But here's the long and short of it:

Going through another long injury cycle last year was an incredible gift.  It allowed me to focus on my business during its craziest season.  It allowed me to share more miles with my kids because my only goal was time on my feet instead of a time on a clock.  It allowed me to support my husband 100% as he trained for and completed his first half Ironman.  It allowed me to run beside Brynn during her first two 5k races.  


 
 


It allowed me to enjoy races from the other side - as a spectator instead of a runner.  


 

 It allowed me to turn my focus outward and enjoy watching people I love accomplish their own lofty goals, leaving me inspired to start the next chapter in my own little book of running.  

When I started racking up the miles again in late fall, it was with the mission of enjoying each run and being grateful for every healthy mile I logged.  I was mindful of my pace, but this time it was to be sure I was keeping it slow instead of forcing a quicker pace my body wasn't ready for yet.  I spent the second half of November and all of December adding slow, easy miles to my week to prepare my body for the Shamrock half marathon in March.  I promised myself I wouldn't even think about any kind of speed work until I was consistently running 25-30 easy miles per week. January came and I ran my tail off...strong, consistent 30+ mile weeks all month long.  Feeling ready, I started peppering some quicker miles into my runs.  I never started a run with a plan to go faster, but if I was feeling good, I'd push the pace for a little bit.  Nothing crazy fast, just a comfortably hard mile or two in the middle of a longer run.  Occasionally I'd surprise myself with a little more speed than I expected, which only helped convince me that this conservative method is working. 

But the real positive reinforcement came this past weekend.  Nothing I can write will really do this experience justice, so I'll stick with just the facts.  A few weeks ago, my friend Jess (better known to many as The Fit Petite) asked me to be a part of a foursome that would tackle 100 kilometers as a team.  For the non-mathletes, that's 62 total miles, divided by 4 runners, meaning each of us would run roughly 16 miles, split up however we wanted.  The race was held at a local golf course, and we'd be running the same 2.3 mile loop around and around and around until we reached 100k.  Lucky me was up first for Team No Pain, No Champagne.

It was 6:30am, dark, and brisk outside.  The plan was to run two laps for a total of 4.6 miles.  Unbeknownst to most of us, the first lap was an out and back instead of a loop.  I completed my out and back, pretty certain I was in dead last.  Daylight began to break when I started the loop after the out and back, making me more sure of my footing and able to pick up the pace a little. Unsure of how this whole day would go down, I was running conservatively to start.  As the motor warmed up during that first loop, I felt myself picking up the pace. Once I hit 4 miles I sped up a bit more, thinking in roughly a half mile I'd be relieved of my running duties by Jess, who was waiting on deck.  I came around the turn, ready to hand our team bib off to Jess, only to be told I had to do another loop.  WHAT???  Well alright.  Back at it for another 2.3 miles. I slowed my pace down slightly and finished my first leg, which turned out to be a 10k+ warm up for the rest of the day. 

The day got colder and windier as it went on, but we were all prepared with extra layers of clothing, blankets, coffee, and good company.  



We'd eat, drink, stretch, chat, and laugh while we waited to see our teammates come around the homestretchOccasionally we'd find warmth and comfort (and clean bathrooms) inside the golf course's clubhouse, but then it was back out to cheer the other runners in.  

My second leg was another two laps, which averaged about 15 seconds faster per mile than my first leg, and despite the quickness, still felt strong and under control.  My third leg was just one lap, and the first mile was incredibly fast thanks to a little tailwind and the half a donut I ate prior to going out.  There was no maintaining that pace, and I eased up a lot for the rest of that leg, but still averaged 27 seconds faster per mile than the second leg.   

I felt more nervous going into my fourth and final leg than I did any of the others.  
By the afternoon, the wind was whipping, and we were all feeling cold and tight, making it hard to gauge how much our legs had left in the tank.  I wanted to finish strong, but there was a good chance of crashing and burning somewhere along the last 2.3 miles.  Surprisingly, I had enough left for a faster finish than I expectedWith about a half mile to go, Taylor Swift's "22" came on the Pandora station I was listening to, and that one little line where she says "It's miserable and magical" brought tears to my eyes and a pace to my legs that was the second fastest of the entire day.  I handed the team bib over and hoped for strong finishes for the rest of my team.  

 

The running and the weather took it's toll on our mental capacity as the day went on, so we checked with the timing table to make sure we were accurate on our lap count before getting too excited about nearing the finish.  It was confirmed that Kristy would be our final runner, and we sent her off as the first raindrops started falling.  We waited for her in the warmth of the clubhouse, and when we saw her come around the homestretch we were like puppies seeing their owner pull up in the driveway.  We decided there was no other way to finish this race than together, so once Kristy rounded the clubhouse, Jess, Kim, and I ran with her to cross the finish line as one unit.  


 

 https://breathofsunshine.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/img_3162.jpeg

As T-Swift so eloquently puts it, this race was miserable and magical. The weather was miserable, although it could have been much worse if the rain had gotten to us earlier than it did.  But the magic...each of my teammates had their own individual goals mapped out for the day, and with our own team and the support and encouragement of other teams and individual runners on the course, each of those missions were accomplished.  My own mission was to put in 16 or so miles that day and not be hating life when I finished.  I did the work and left with a runner's high like no other.  I left knowing my method of "run more, run slower" is working right now.  And I left knowing I am still capable of running as fast I did before the foot injury.  My plan is to stay this course of running easy, joyful miles 90% of the time and giving it a little gas when I'm feeling strong.  I know I have a sub-1:40 in these legs, but most importantly, I know it doesn't have to come in the next race I run or even the next year of running.  My heart is in this running thing for the long haul, and that will only happen if my body stays healthy.  

 Do what you love! Quotes for inspiration.:  

My next challenge comes just five weeks from now, during our beloved Shamrock weekend.  I signed up for the half marathon months ago, but when Brynn told me back in December that she wanted to run the 8k instead of the Final Mile, I jumped at the chance to do the 8k with her as well.  It'll be an 18 mile weekend for me, and I'm really excited to see how it all goes down.  With no time goal looming over my head this year, my only hope for Shamrock weekend (and beyond) is more merry miles.