Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Racing in the Moment - Indian Trails 20K, Leonardo, NJ, 4/8/18

Indian Trails 20k is the first team race of the year. This is funny to me because it is also the longest, hardest course of the year too. But people are trained up for Spring Marathons so it does work well when timing is works. This year, timing was tough. 

If I wanted race with my club again, so this means I need to show when my schedule allows and do my best, whatever that looks like. After racing the 5K last weekend, I asked Alanna if she wanted a 20K of hills ;).  We need hills and I need to see more finish lines. I miss the social aspect of club racing too. 

Saturday, the day before the race (this speaks to how serious we were about "racing") Alanna and I run 10.5 miles.  My back is flaring up badly. It was my worst day of back pain in a long time. My back has been hurting again on and off for the last few months, because I am tad too heavy for my spine right now. It does not take much extra weight for me to hurt. I have two destroyed discs. I have had degenerative disc disease since at least 2012. It was bad in 2015, but completely managed and mitigated in 2016.

On Sunday, driving to the race was bad for my back too. This is a hilly course and back pain could force me to walk. Normally, I would not mind. I have walked a lot when my back hurts. There is no choice. But today I have my team to think about. This does not mean I am going to somehow suddently be able to will myself to run through pain. Again, there is no choice when my back is non-functional. I email my captain and tell her to please know I am in pain and may be walking. If I run 9:00 pace or 9:30 pace that might be a great day today. I ask her to put me where she thinks she can use me, but to know I am hurting.
The funny thing about my back pain is that is comes and goes. Sometime on hills I feel good because of the varied grade. Often a flat course is worse due to the repetition of the same posture. Sometimes downhills are excruciating. Sometimes when I am running faster I feel much better than when I am running slower. Maybe there is something about my form being better when I am trying to move quickly. It is a mystery I am no longer interested in solving.

During our 5.2 mile warm-up, I could feel my back spasming and I was getting concerned.

I could never figure out what triggers the pain, but I know training well, getting lean, doing my single leg squats and core work all make the pain a non-issue. 

I have been doing none of that. 

But I have been doing a lot of meditation and I thought about that a lot as soon as I started to run.

The only time I have been really mindful about my breathing lately has been when meditating. At about 2 minutes into this race I started noticing my breath. I started noticing that I was taking deep full breaths like when I meditate and this triggered me to consider applying what I practice each morning to this situation.

Each morning I practice two skills, (1) the first is being aware of what I am experiencing and how it is shaping my emotional tone and (2) the second is letting go of any concerns that are related to past and future in order stay in the present moment.
So I am listening to my breathing and I determine that I feel comfortable, really comfortable despite working hard and this is good. 

Then I start to look around me and I ask “Do the people around me look more or less comfortable than I think I feel right now?” I notice heavy breathers. I notice people driving their arms hard. I notice a few who look fluid and smooth. I notice that there are MANY more people in my immediate area who appear to be working a lot harder than I feel I am working and I think “Good.This tells me that I am in the right place. I don’t want to be the one working harder than the other right now.”

This is a meaningful insight for me as a races. I used to use my perception of the others around me to gauge whether or not I felt they were working too hard, whether they would likely fade, whether I could beat them by the end. But I never consciously used my perception of my own comfort level, in comparison to those around, to me assess whether I was pacing myself smartly. Maybe I did this subconsciously. Maybe this is just semantics. 

For this race, I was not using my watch to track my pace. It was on, but I did not care to look at it. The data was just to be tracked. The pace I raced had to be paced by feel because I have no idea what I could do today in these conditions. So to help me gauge how I felt, I reflected off of others and determined that if I could run with a group of people who were all working just a little harder than I was working, then I was probably pacing myself well enough to pass them all in the second half, when I hope to be able to have some speed left in me (after all this is race so placement will eventually mattter).

This is the longest race I have run in a long time. This is probably the longest run I have run in a long time non-stop, probably since January when I ran a marathon. In training, I always stop at the bathroom by 2 miles in. In training we may stop briefly for any random numbers of reasons, to refill a bottle, because someone needs to do something. I am also certain I have not run this fast for this far in a long long time. I ran the 5k at 7:24 pace last weekend but that was just 3M of hard running. This is 12.4 of hills. 

Based on my 5k time, I initially told our captain that I expected to run 8:15 +/- 10 second per mile. (I am really pleased that I achieved this by then end). This pace range felt realistic for a flat course similar to the course I just raced for 3 miles. Last year I ran this course in 7:19 pace, so I hoped over a minute per mile slower was possible. (It takes training to run fast.)

It was too easy to get preoccupied about my recent Minimalist Approach to training or to drift ahead to the miles before me. But every single time I caught myself thinking about past or future, I would stop myself and say “Stay in this moment! How do you feel right now? Are you ok right now? Are you trying your best right now?  Are you running too fast right now? Can you run faster right now and still hold it together? ... This is the only moment you can control and if you make sure every "right now" moment is an honest best effort but never overreaching from your current ability, then this race will go really well! Race the Moment You are In!"  

By “ok” I don’t mean “not trying” or “sandbagging” or “taking it easy on myself.” By “ok” I  mean, “Running as fast as I can run without feeling like my wheels are about to come off.” When I raced by best races in the past I was very very in tune with how my legs felt. I could feel that line where I was over-shooting my pace and throwing away any additional gears I might have in reserve for the end when I could really use it to drop time. I would slow to not overshoot my pace. I didn’t care what anyone did around me. I ran by the way my body felt. It works.

Today, I was doing this again, except every step was about staying in the present. There was no mental math about what I could finish in if I just kept up this pace. I wan’t even looking at my watch. I knew with 100% certainity that I was giving my best effort in each moment and therefore the data meant nothing to me. It could change nothing.
The hills were brutal and I love them so much. I listened to my body, found a pace I could sustain, crested eat hill feeling really good, and cruised down the decent.

I remember thinking about how strong my heart felt, which is surprising since I haven’t trained it yet to be strong in a race. I started thinking about how strong my legs felt and how nothing hurt at all. I started thinking about how comfortable my lungs felt and how breathing wasn’t even a problem over these hills. Don’t get me wrong, the hills impacted my breathing significantly, but not to the point that could not recovery from a climb quickly and that is when I realized my lungs are strong. My only issue right now is body mass. I am very much within my healthy weight range. I am just heavier than I was in the past and I can feel it when I run. If I can spend some time burning off a few %s of body fat, and working to make my lean muscle stronger, I feel like I have a lot of potential to return to fast racing again. It will just take some work. A lot of work. But fun work. Work that makes you proud of yourself. Work that surprises you as your ability unfolds. I look forward to this work!
As we ran toward the turn around, we kept going down down down. As soon as my mind drifted to thoughts about how hard the climb would feel, I stopped and asked myself “How do you feel right now!?” Omg I feel fantastic. I feel fast and strong and like I am flying (after all it was a downhill). “Can you do anything different to make this moment better?” “No.”. Ok then, proceed with the running. And just like that any concerns about the up hill was gone and I almost missed out on enjoying the glorious descent I was running in that moment because I was letting my mind worry about the turn around and the climb back up.

As soon as we hit the turn around and started to climb I recognized that I feel really strong! This hill is big but I can run it all. Nothing hurts. The run is hard but "Hard" and "Hurt" are both four letter words that start with the letter H but that is all there is that makes them the same. Hurt may be just on the other side of Hard, but I am staying in my happy place for this race. I can’t do anything when I am in what I identify as pain. I enjoy doing Hard things so I just keep pushing.

I know I paced myself well because up the hill and even on the down I am passing runners who started much faster than me. We are climbing the steepest hill of he course, the last big climb, up a dirt road and it feels awesome. I keep checking in with myself “How do you feel? I feel good!” as I run past those who look like they could not answer that question the same way. The hills is really hard. My pace is slowed but I ran it.

A younger runner comes up on my shoulder and he says “Do you know that of all the people I could see, you and I were the only two who did not walk on that hill!” I responded “That means we must know how to pace ourselves!” He smiles and I do too b/c I feel like this race is going very well and I know that last mile is fast!

As soon as we hit the descent I decide it is now time to use up whatever I got left in my tank. For the fiirst time in this entire race I felt like I was getting some lift, like when I am in my zone and running as fast as I can. I miss being lighter because lift doesn’t come easier to me then.

I dig deep and hope that maybe if I can push really hard, I can negative split this thing. I give 100%.  My last mile was by far my fastest. The long downhill helped a lot. I did manage a negative split and this makes me proud! 

I cross the line in 1:44:50 and I can’t believe how good I feel. I do a 2.4M c/d and call it day at 20M. 

I don't win anything but I feel like I won the day.  Later I check team results and I see that my women's Open team, in our case made up of all women over 40 years old, placed 3rd OA and my 40's Women's team won.  This is a good start to the season and I am glad I was able to contribute to help the team in both categories! 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Trying to Start Over - Run to Cure Blood Cancer 5k, Winding River Park, Toms River 3/31/18

Photo stolen from Alanna's page ;)
It has been quite some time since I blogged about racing. I have been busy. I have a lot of projects on my plate and recently I have been working a lot (3 different jobs) and going to grad school as well. I am spread really thin so something had to give and it was training to race. The reality is racing doesn't pay the bills but work does and when you have student loans out the whazoo, you have to work work work to get those manageable.

I have really been enjoying the work I do at the hospital, changing my scheduled so that I create a more meaningful series of treatment group each week. I have been feeling productive and purposeful there. I work at the hospital as a therapist over 20+ hours per week, not including the commuting which is about 45 minutes each way.  I also have my coaching roster of clients. I build plans for, review logs weekly, ask about whole person wellness weekly, reply to questions, revise plans. Plus I need to maintain and update my websites, do my billing and accouting, create and update forms, and I creating an online academy where I can offer supplemental material, like my nutrition course.  I also field questions from potential clients or friends who just want to ask me "quick training questions" but don't actually want to hire me to train them  etc... (By the way when someone ask a "quick question", that just means they are hoping for a quick answer, not that the question won't take any time). As a result, coaching for me is my full time job, which takes up more time (and pays much less) than any other work I have even done. But my coaching business is my baby. I give all I can to do a good job for my runners. And then I have my Kinesiology grad school classes. This work takes up my nights and weekends and equal about 15-20+ hours of my time. I used to train 10-20 hours per week but something had to give once I was offered the chance to also teach at the graduate level at NYU on top of everything else. There are only 168 hours per week. I have been very tired.

I can't say that I have been sad to race less. Part of me has missed it. But I was offered the opportunity to teach at NYU and this was something I have wanted to do for a long time. This is a dream job for me. I feel so grateful for what is ON my plate, not sad for what is not. I didn't actually apply for this job. NYU contacted me and that makes this feel so very sweet. Years ago, I reached out to the director of the program I graduated from and asked her to please keep me in mind for teaching. It had to be maybe a decade later and I got that call :) Today, I have a glorious ID in my wallet that says NYU Adjunct/Staff and this makes my heart so very happy. To find the time to create the syllabus, prepare the lecture material, review the research and reading material I would assign, travel into the city, teach the class, communicate with students and co-faculty, etc... while stilling working at the hospital, while coaching, while going to school, I just had to let training hard go. I trained less, ate more as I slept less, and just lost my fitness as a runner. But my heart has been full. <3

I finished teaching my last class of the semester last week, so I get to start over.  Although I am starting a new 10-Week Fitness Nutrition group (which I created and I will teach that starting on Monday 4/2),  this group work should be a little less demanding than NYU since I have taught this course several times already.

Now that I am getting some time back in my life, I need a check in race! 

Alanna agreed to meet me at a 5k in Toms River. But Alanna and I don't meet for 3M runs. We are not going to travel an hour each just for a 5k. So we ran 8M as a warm up, raced the 5k which was really a 3 Miler and then ran 3 miles after to cool down.

I am happy to say I finished 3rd Female, but this was year #1 and the race was small and not part of any race series. There was no real competitiveness here.  It was fundraiser for blood cancer.

I was beat by a 9 year old girl. That made me smile.

I was also beat by a Taco. I am not sure how I feel about that. ;)

I got to revisit how much nervous energy I get at races. I got to remember why I tend to race alone.  I like to run around the starting area and listen for annoucements, while the little voice in my head goes "Ahhhhh! omg, omg, omg you have to pee again for the third time in 10 mins!!!" This need to stay right around the start is probably ingrained in me from my track running days, when the start of your race was not at a certain exact time but rather you had to listen for annoucements for first call and second call with details about how much time until your event would starts. So now I just like to hover around the start. Straying too far from the staging area will make me more anxious than I need to be as gun time approaches.

I wish I could say that I just ran this race "as a workout" and report that my pace was not reflective of my best work. But that would be lie. I ran my butt off.  That was all I had in me.  I tried my best.  

I started up front and decided to not mind my watch. I have no idea what I would do, but I told Alanna that if I was under 7:30 pace for this thing I would be thrilled.  That was a random guess.  I know I was not fit. I know I have gained weight.  I knew I would not be in the 6:xx's.

As I ran along, I picked a pace that I felt I could hold but also one I felt I could speed up from as the race progressed.  I felt like I was running forever and was wondering where the heck M1 was???  Finally I glance at my watch and I see it is .75M only and the pace is 7:20

... and then the Taco passes me.  Excellent.  

First woman passes me as well, but I am not racing anyone but me.  I let her go. This really was not actually my choice. :)  I do plan to push the pace a little to see if I can get at least 5 second faster in M2. The race is flat except for some little bridge. The weather is 48 degrees and no wind. It is a beautiful day for a race. The course is very very windy, as in "lots of turns" windy... not lots of wind. (Winding River Park). The path is a little torn up. Those issues did  not slow me down at all.

In Mile 2, I am passed by the 9 year old... she is making ground on the Taco.... M2 7:16.

Ok, at least I got a little faster, but man this is hard. We are heading back to the start now. Miles ago I was confident that I would have a kick at the end of this thing. But that dream was long gone. I wasn't running so hard that I felt I was suffering completely, but I didn't have another gear.  I am 10 lbs heavier than my ideal racing weight, which I was close to the last 5k I raced in December which as a 6:29 pace race and one I was very happy with. I had realistic expectations today.

Photo posted on OCR's FB page
I was holding my 7:17 pace for most of the first half of the last mile but could feel my body running out of oomph. Every part of me felt out of shape. The runners around me were pettering out and I couldn't shift gear. But I had not practiced shifting gears in many months.

The Taco was fading and I was making some ground. But my lungs felt terrible and my asthma was problematic. My lungs are just not used to working that hard. I had a hacking cough the rest of the day from this race.

Nothing about me has worked that hard in a long time. I faded in last mile in 7:24 pace. I am ok with this.

I finish the 3M run in 22:01, which was just about what I expected. I head back to run in with Alanna for her last .2M. I joke with her about whether she is ok with having an illegal pacer on a short course, non-USATF sanctioned, fundraiser and she says she will be ok with a DQ if that happens. ;)

She asks how I did. I tell her "I just wanted to race something and I did! My heart is happy! But my lungs... not so much." 

Photo posted on OCR's FB page
At the awards ceremony I was announced as 3rd Female OA and gifted a gift card of unknown value to a resturant that is actually near my parents' house. The race raised money for LLS, which is where I met Alanna as we both were coaching Team in Training back then. This was a good day!

I now have my baseline check in race.  It is very far from where I used to be, but I am ok with that too. I need to use my time, the time I got back from teaching, to now get back to training.  

I have a performance test to chip away from now. I need to feel better. I need to get fitter. I need to run faster again. 

I don't think I am done with racing hard just yet. 

When I am in shape, people will try to distinguish me from the average person by telling me they think I am "not normal." They have no idea how normal I am.  The claim that I am just gifted with some natural ability to just run 6 minute miles whenever I feel like it. There is nothing I can say to explain that this is not true. But I know those comments are not about me, but rather about the speaker making the comments.  What I do know is when I am not in shape, I am just like everyone else who is also not in race shape. Without training to race, I am not trained to race. I don't have some innate natural ability to do great things. I have a leaky heart valve. I have asthma. I have a carb-craving that keeps me heavier than I need to be unless I run off what I eat. I am normal and to race well it takes work. Hard work. Everything I have ever earned as a runner I had to work for. I had to train hard and smart.  I had to be consistent, make good (often boring) choices, and take care of myself as a runner. I had to become a student of the sport and read/study/learn.  I know how to do all that work. I also know how much time it takes to do it right. I need to have the room in my life to do it again. I want to do it again.

When I have the time, I know I can do good work.  Here is to hoping I can find the time to nurture my runner-self, while also nuturing all the other sides of myself that I need to nuture to feel balanced, content, and purposed.

Distance 3M
Time 22:01
Place 3rd Female

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mid-Mountain Marathon, Park City, Utah, 8/19/17

Mid-Mountain Marathon, Park City, Utah  

A few months ago, I felt compelled to see some mountain tops. Last June, SuperDave and I ran 51M up to a summit in Bryce Canyon, just in time to see the sunset. This was one of the best experiences I had in a long time. I needed to see the sunrise over a mountain again.

This year, Sid and I decided to visit Park City. While there, I ran the Mid-Mountain Marathon, a trail marathon that takes place at about 8500ft for most of the race. Being from 20ft, I knew the altitude would limit me. Considering that I feel very much out of "racing shape", I planned to hike when I needed to and run when I could. My biggest concern was whether or not I would be able to beat the cut-off at 16M. We had to maintain a 15:00 pace and I truly wasn’t sure if I would be able to do that. It really depended upon how technical the trail was.  Altitude can be soul crushing to those who reside at sea level.

I booked a hotel in a very nice lodge so Sid would have a comfortable place to stay while I ran. I felt like we needed a splurge weekend, so this trip was truly a vacation in a beautiful place with a marathon thrown in, just so I could get a workout. The lodge did not disappoint us at all.

The first thing we did after landing in SLC was to drive up to Guardsman’s Pass. This is the start of the Big Cottonwood Marathon, one of my very favorite races. We went on a short hike and just enjoyed the views while trying to breathe at 9700 ft. 


 The next morning I would try to run at 8500 ft. As I huffed and puffed while walking back to the car, I began to question what I had managed to get myself into. Hey, worst case scenario is that I DNF. That is not really a big deal to me. I know most people feel a DNF is some type of epic personal failure. I just don’t feel that way. Running is something I do for me, for fun, to bring me joy, and right now if I feel that I something is going so terribly wrong that I want to or need to stop I will stop. Sure it is disappointing, but I don't beat myself up for doing it. I have nothing to prove. 

No matter what happened, I knew I would still get to see the sunrise over the mountains while traveling as far as I could on foot. There will be a day that I can no longer run trails for any duration at 8500ft. Today would not be that day. 

I did not do much planning (or specific training). It was on the way to packet pickup that I realized I was supposed to take a bus to the start. When I learned where the start was, I was so happy to discover that it was actually .2M from my hotel!  POINT TWO MILES… No way!  That is so perfect!

With the 2 hour time change, getting up for the race was easy. My 5:00 AM alarm for a 7 AM race start felt like I was sleeping in. I didn’t even organize my gear until the morning. I wasn’t sure how my shoes would feel since I was wearing new wear-test Hokas. I needed to put 25 miles per week on them so this would knock out a week’s mileage in one day! I was hopeful they would be ok. They were. 

At sunrise, Sid and I walked over to the start. I was nervous. It felt like forever since I raced a trail race at altitude. I had no idea what the footing would be like. Setting realistic expectations, I seeded myself way in the back. 

The weather conditions were perfect! It was high 40’s at the start and the temp would rise into the 80s by the end.  However, with no humidity and a shady course, it just felt cool and comfortable the entire way.

Off we went and by the end of mile 1, I felt like I was already in trouble. The altitude was just too much for me. I learned from last year at Big Cottonwood, that when I don’t get in enough air, my lower legs cramp and spasm.  It was happening again, as we worked our way from about 7600 ft to 8500 ft. 

By the time I hit the 3M mark, I was run/hiking at a blistering 14:50 pace. I had stopped for a few photos, but I also needed that time to catch my breath. I was certain I was not going to make the cut-off.  I am pretty sure most of the entire field has passed me. Trains of runners on the single track “On Your Left’d” me for the first 45 minutes of this race. 

By 3.6M into the run, everything started to turn around! The shin spasms alleviated, the course started to feel better to me. There was runnable trail for a long time and I just ran ran ran… slowly... but it was definitely running ;)

From this point on, I must have passed about 100 runners. I wasn’t fast, but everything I could run I did and only one person passed me from the 3.6M mark through the finish (just one guy who was hauling at the very end). I had stumbled over rocks about 5 times and was so proud to have been able to right myself before falling. People around me were not so lucky.  Most falls happen when glancing away from the trail. When checking the watch, looking at the beautiful views, or looking up ahead to try to avoid mountain bikers coming the opposite way, all led to me kicking a rock that threw off my balance. 

But it was not until the last few miles of the race that I had gotten so fatigued that lifting my feet became a chore. The course shifted from shaded woodsy trail to extremely runnable downhill switch backs.  Due to my slower pace for most of the race, I was not really burnt out too much by the end. As we hit the switchbacks I was able to pick up my pace, but not my feet, apparently!  

I fell 3.5 times between M21 and the M25. At one point I was getting annoyed with myself for all the stumbling. (.5 was because I landed against a tree, so technically I was still upright. But that tree kicked my butt!) Even with my unique technique of flinging myself down the switchbacks, I was still passing people. 

This marathon turned out to be one of slowest marathons in my life, but it was one of the most enjoyable. I love the area. Park City is fun. 

The downtown main street area is filled with delicious food at interesting restaurants. The mountain views are inspiring. I was just so glad to be there doing something that scared me, in a good way.

I need more Adventure in my life and the Mid-Mountain Marathon certainly fed my soul. As I approached the finish line, I started to feel myself getting emotional. I was so uncertain about whether or not I could finish a trail marathon that was over 8000 ft elevation. A lot could have gone wrong. Very few things actually did. I set out at a slow pace, which helped make the work more fun.  By the end, I still felt energized. I was able to finish the second half stronger than the first. I was only bleeding a little at the end. It was a good day!

My time was 5:39.  Sidney seemed proud of me. He was quick to point out that I was 14th in my age group, which made me laugh a bit.  But he followed this up with “Look at the entire leader board!!! … Almost every single person ahead of you is from the mountains. You are one of the first from sea level to finish!

Ok, that made me feel proud of myself.

Sid and I spent the next few days hiking trails, eating and drinking downtown, and relaxing at the lodge. It was one of the best trips I have had in a long long time. We didn’t feel rushed. Our accommodations were so beautiful that just hanging out at the lodge felt like we were doing something special. We spent time just sitting on our deck together watching the mountain be a mountain.

What a great trip! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Racing with Sidney and the Teterboro 5k, Teterboro Airport, NJ. 7/15/17

This Saturday morning I convinced Sidney to race a 5k with me. This wasn't hard to do. Afterall, he completed his training on Wednesday, the same day he started his training, by running a 3.1M run declaring he was ready to go. ;)

I love Sidney.  He keeps my perspective in check.  Sid doesn't "train" for anything. He just runs without any idea of how fast, how far, and even how often he is running. He takes the dogs out for their exercise, comes home runs a few more miles on his own or with me, and that is how he trains. There are no "workouts" on the plan. He doesn't use a log. He just runs.

In my opinion, he generally picks the worst (hottest) time of day, wears dark colors, usually wearing a black cotton T-shirt that makes me crazy. He carries nothing with him, except now he carries his phone if he is on call for work. Often, it seems like he isn't even having a good time. But he still just runs.

When we run together, he is usually about 6 strides in front of me. I just follow him around until we are done. No talking.  Just run. It is a very unique experience. This technique began when we first started dating and he would take me to Allaire to run trails. He knows trails. He is/was a mountain biker.  On single track, we needed to run single file and leave some room, about 6 strides, for me to see the ground between us so I could stay upright.  This just became how we run now.

Even though Sidney doesn't "train" for anything and doesn't often seek out races, he will race anything I ask him to race. Ironically, his favorite races are events like La Luz, the 9M, one-way, uphill the WHOLE way, trail race in New Mexico that starts at 6000 ft and ends at 10600 ft.  He has done this 5 times and once just climbed the trail solo because he could. Yes, he climbed La Luz mid-day, and I am sure he was wearing a black cotton T-shirt. He did carry water. Phew.

On the other end of the spectrum, he loves the Key West Half. We used to do that race every year for a decade. He says he liked that race because it has free beer at the end... but he doesn't drink beer ??? I think he tries to torture me. I also think 6 of his 10 his Key West race photos are of him racing in the sub-tropics in his Dark Forest Green La Luz trail run shirt. At least it was a tech shirt. :)

Once, 3 entire weeks before the LBI 18M run, Sid declared he wanted to run it. No training at all.  So I say "Ok, if you want to run 18M on 0 training, I will pay to see this happen."  I register him when I register myself.  Sid has screws in his knee from a motocross injury (He was very very good at Motocross. He used to race across the US like I do with running. He was sponsored by Fox. I wish I knew him then). He has a replaced Achilles tendon from a cadaver. He has screws in his shoulder from a head on collision with a drunk driver who was driving the wrong way on Rt 9 at night with no lights one night he was driving home from work at the prison. The screws in his knee bother him when he runs too far, but somehow 18M on no training did not send up any red flags. I know the car will be parked at Mile 9 and he will have the keys. If he gets to 9M in pain, he can DNF, get in the car and meet me at the end. I fully expect to see him there when I hit the finish shoot. Screws,  a Borrowed Achilles, 18M, No Training... I am not sure he can finish this without pain. But no.  He runs 18M in 9:22 pace, eating only Candy Corn for fuel (while most likely wearing black cotton T-shirt.) :)  He only had a 4 minute positive fade in a race with a headwind throughout the entire point-to-point course.

Sid will race anything I ask him to race, but I don't abuse the privilege.  

Sid definitely does not over think things. Once we left for a 5k up New Hampshire and halfway to the race he realized he was wearing bedroom slippers and had no sneakers in the car.  We had to stop at Khols on the way,  run in, buy sneakers and then he raced it. Another time he forgot shorts?  I do think he likes to torture me. :)

Once he decided he wanted to run a marathon. He actually had time to prepare. Like weeks of time, maybe like 6 weeks? ;)

I convinced him to run the Beaver Island Marathon in Michigan. He could rent a plane and fly us there. He agreed that would be awesome. He devised his own training plan. He wanted to train for it by mountain biking a lot. (He was a very good mountain biker. Really good and he wanted to protect his knee from the pounding, so this made sense). I convinced him to do a few runs. So he decided to run a 5M, 10M, 15M, and 20M run each week apart, then rest a week before the marathon, and the rest of the time he would mountain bike or maybe run if he felt like it. So he ran a 5, 10, 15, and 20M run, as he said he would. All nonstop, all without fuel, most likely in black cotton t-shirts, at 10:00 pace or better, on trail loops. Even effort. No fade.

On race weekend, the Beaver Island was going to be hit with thunderstorms. He can't fly a Mooney in that so we canceled the trip. Since he was "trained," I signed us up for a 12 Hour race (Labor Pains) and we ran that together.  It was on a 5M loop of rocky trails. The loop required the use of a step ladder to get over a guardrail.  One lady fell on her face on some rocks and broke her nose. I may or may not have broken my toe or at least dislocated it. All I know is it was purple for a week and super painful. We ran 4 laps, stopped to have some burgers and kick our feet up to rest. Then we went out and we ran/walked 11 more miles. Sidney finished a 50k with me.  He has a vest that says "50K Finisher." But ask him today if he ever ran a marathon or ultra and he says "No. That race doesn't count. We had burgers. We took a break. We sat in lawn chairs. We use a step ladder.  What's up with that!? That doesn't count!" Ok, you covered 31.1M on foot and yes it was at a leisurely pace... so ok that doesn't count. Sidney likes to torture me.

Sid doesn't care for road races. So once I found us an adventure race that required us to canoe through a bioluminescent bay (beautiful), mountain bike a few miles, and then run... all while trying to find checkpoints in the middle of the dark night in Florida. The race started at 1:00 am and ended at 5:00 am. We had no time to train for this.  I have no skills with orienteering.  Sid has military training, so I was hoping someone taught him how to use a compass.  I don't even know if we had a compass?  But he thought this sounded awesome and agreed to do it. So we did it.  We actually found a few checkpoints, which was a small miracle.... especially with me in charge of the map and with me not realizing there were actual turn-by-turn directions on the back of the map they gave us 10 minutes before the start when we arrived.  Apparently, the regulars get there an hour or two early to plan their strategy and learn the routes.  Our strategy: Just Don't Die. This was more challenging than it sounds since we had to "jump over" a slow moving train with our mountain bike.  It was very slow moving.  Somehow we managed to not finish last. I suspect the other two teams behind us were blind.

Sidney is my running opposite.

I know every detail about every step I take. I try to race with precision, collecting data along the way, making reasoned decisions. I plan my training, my fueling, my pacing, my gear.  I am my worst critic.  My heart gets too invested. I elevate running to some status it may or may not deserve in reality. But running gives me a tremendous sense of purpose.

And then Sidney leaves for races forgetting to bring running shoes. But he always manages to finish what he starts, no matter what the challenge is. He may not train, but I love his perspective.  

Sidney has a lot of lessons to teach me about running, many of which I am still learning: 
-Don't over think things.
-Believe in yourself.
-Be honest with yourself.
-Know your ability.
-Work within your means.
-Get it done.
-Do the job you set out to do.
-No excuses.
-No quitting.

Sidney is awesome.


Teterboro 5k

Today I convinced Sid to run the 5K at the airport he flies out of for work.  I wanted to race so I could work on my sharpening my pacing. I knew my time would be much slower than last year.  I wanted his company to make the whole experience more fun. After the race, he could show me the jets he flies as a charter pilot (he flies wealthy people around or gets hired to fly surgeons to hospitals in the middle of the night to pick up organs for transplant patients). Even though this was one of the days he did NOT have to go to Teterboro, he was a good sport and went with me anyway.

Sid made an effort to warm up with me. After his .25M warm up, I did another .5M around the area we could use for warm up space. Space was limited because this race is on an airport tarmac and security is tight there.

I decided to line up towards the front, second row.  I ran 7:04 pace at Belmar last weekend and had predicted I should be able to run 6:50 pace or better today.  My goal is to start around 6:50, maybe 7:00 if I felt sluggish, then aim to get slightly faster each mile. Goals: Run by feel, forget the watch, listen to my body, and no fading.

I don't expect anything in terms of placement, but I know I was 2nd last year with 19:43.  6:50 or better is about 21:15... I hope to maybe squeak under 21 if I feel strong.

Sid heads towards the middle of the pack. He decided 9:00 pace would be realistic. Under 9 would be wonderful. Part of finishing what you start is having some sense of self-awareness about your ability. It is a little better to underestimate than over estimate speed and endurance when you haven't raced anything in 9 months.

The gun goes off. I start behind Sergio and next to Ben. The pace is a tad fast off the line. After getting pulled out too fast, I let three ladies go and I settle back a little. I size up my competition as I run My Pace. In the first half mile, I suspect that 2 of the 3 women in front of me are breathing a little too hard too soon and likely not going to be able to hold their pace. The third woman looks strong. I don't even look at my watch. I am trying to run by feel alone.  I plan to check my splits after the race. I want to feel like I am picking up my pace each mile.  M1 6:42.

In the second mile, I shift a gear and get a little faster.  I catch up to Ben and begin to reel in the one woman ahead of me. I ask Ben. "Is she first woman?"  Ben: "I believe she is. But you can take her"  Me: "Not if I blow up in M2... I need to be patient.  If she is still near me in the last mile, I have to go for it.  After all, I have extra motivation today ... Sidney is here!"

I pick up a bit, trying to stick to my plan of gradual negative splits. I reel her in faster than I planned.  I hope to wait until the final mile to pass, but just before M2 I end up right behind her.  M2 6:38

I have no idea where the M2 Marker is and I not looking at my watch often or if I am I am not retaining what I see.  I find myself passing her, a bit earlier than I hoped and I have a choice. I can hold my pace and risk having her go with me or I can pass "with authority", put some distance between us, hope to not blow up before I settle down, wait for a little bit of recovery to set in so I can find my next gear, and then kick at the end to hopefully seal the victory.

I decide to pass with authority and hope to hold it together the rest of the way.  I glance at my pace after the M2 beep and it is 6:18. I know I am not holding that for the full 1.1 to the end.  Once I can't hear her feet hitting the ground I settle down.  I want to look back so badly, but I don't.  I stick to my plan.  I settle down to regroup, ideally cleaning my lactate so I can burst if needed if I hear her approach. I figure if she had to work hard to catch up to me, she won't have another gear once she reaches me and we are starting to run out of road.  M3 6:33

I think about the track workouts Alanna, Kim, and I have been doing. I know my turnover has been low 5:00 pace for 300 meters repeats. My best 300 in training as 59 seconds which is a 5:19 pace at the end of 3.75 miles of 300 meter repeats. I know I have another gear, but I just want to until I know I can hold it before I shift one last time.  We are close to ending this thing, but it is still too soon to be confident. With each step closer to the finish, I take it granted even LESS that I have this wrapped up.  That last thing I need is to be over confident just strides from the shoot and lose the race.  I have no idea where she is.  I don't look back. I won't be confident that I have this race won until I actually do it.

I think about Sidney. I really want to be able to tell him "I won!" He rarely attends races with me and not often when I am peak shape. When I have goal races in mind and when I am well-trained, I prefer to go to races without him so he can stay home with our dogs and I can focus on what I need to do. I do better on my own. But when I do well, I do wish he could see me at my best.  But even at my best, I don't win a lot of races overall so when he does go to a race with me, the chance that I will actually win is quite low. Today I would like for him to see me win something.

I know I have another gear. I did my work and paced this well. When I see the finish line, I dig deep. If I just run as fast as I can, push as hard as I can, then I will have a good chance at winning. And if I get beat, I can't be too upset because I will know I tried my best.

I kick as hard as I can. I imagine I am on the track trying to run my best 300m repeat. I make it to the shoot first, running the last .1 in 5:50 pace. I turn around and see how close this was. I had about a 15 second lead by the finish.

Sidney came in a few minutes later, in 8:08 pace!  <3

Time: 20:30 gun (20:27 chip time: 6:36 pace)
Gender Place: 1st OA Female
Overall Place 30

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Initial Check-In Race for this training cycle: Belmar 5, Belmar, NJ, 7/8/17

To solidify my focus and to get a handle on what my training paces should be right now, I needed a "Check-In" Race. 

I also needed to wait until I felt ready to enjoy the experience. It was going to be a challenging day, with a race time that was much slower than I have run in the past, as it should be. I worked incredibly hard for my PRs last Fall. I am not at that level of fitness now. I am having fun on the track. My long runs are up to 18M. I am doing my hill work. 

Starting over can be hard to do, but once the ball is rolling, positive progress can be made. I know that reminiscing about past performances and feeling "bad" that we am not running as fast right now does nothing to move us forward or make us fitter. That is wasted energy, negatively toned, that only operates to hold us back. It is human to think about where we have been and how great we have run before, but that is the past. Today is not that day. To get fitter I know I need to assess where I am right now, in this moment, and build from here. I don't have a lot of trouble moving past that hurdle once I get started. It is the first race back that is the hardest step. I need to wait until I feel ready and then all it takes one Check-In Race to give me a new present focus to build from. Today I found my focus. 

After a beach run with Kim last week, I emailed Suz. I had been asked by Laura if I was racing again. Suz was building a team could use some runners. I wasn’t going to make any promises about my ability. I had no idea what I could do.  I needed a race to find out. I could promise to be a body on the roster if she needed runners to field a team. Suz was happy to let me on!  Thank you!

My last race was a 10K in April. At Mile 4, I strained my Achilles.  It was a weird mishap that was not from training, but rather from walking 8M (unplanned) the day before in crap shoes and really exhausting my calves and Achilles. (Sometimes it is what we do when not training that has the biggest impact on our race day experience).  When I started running to 10k, my Achilles was already very tired. I truly needed recovery from that walk, not to run 6:45 pace up a hill. By M4 of that race, my Achilles just gave out. I knew I was going to need a lot of time to recover. I just should have stayed home that day, but I had no way to really know I was not going be able to run 6M and finish in one piece. Just the week before I ran a 1:30 20k with a 6:35 final mile. I thought I be ok.  I was mistaken.   

So today, I was a bit anxious about racing again. I did not want to restrain my Achilles. Trust is hard to build back once broken, but the only way back is to take some calculated risks and accept the consequences. There was no reason to think I would get hurt. I took a long time to heal properly. I felt 100% well. I was not just race-ready.

Because I am still building up my volume and this was not a goal race, I wanted more than just 5M of running, especially if I was going to take a drive to the beach (45 minutes each way). Kim had 8M on her plan, so we met at 5:45 am, caught the sunrise, and ran that together as my “warm up”.

We parked just over a half mile from the race staging area (so Kim could be sure to get out of Belmar easily). SuperDave came down to race. He parked in the same lot, arriving as I was in my car trying to remember what it felt like to lace up a pair of racing flats. Dave and I got our bibs, I found some of my teammates, and we headed to the start.

The first race back always feels a little surreal. My body hadn't felt the rush of the neurochemical cocktail that primes the CNS to perform in a long time. 

During the warm-up, Kim asked me what I thought I would do. 

Me: “Oh Jeez, I have no idea??? I really hope to be between 7 and 8, but I would be really happy with sub-9! I haven’t run anything in the 8’s in a long time. I hope I can run 8:30s!” 

Kim: “OMG! You will be faster than that! Would you be happy with 7:30’s?” 

Me: "Absolutely! I would be thrilled with 7:30s. I ran 6:38 here last year… I don’t expect that to happen today.”

Just jogging to the start felt hard. The 8M 10:00 paced warm up felt hard. I had trouble imagining running in the 8:00’s. It is human to reflect back on how fast and fit I was just months ago and feel “something’ about not being in that type of shape again. But I was ready to see where I stand.  In some ways, this is "Just a Race." But for me, running is also my livelihood. The bulk of my income comes from my coaching. I need to be able to perform well (for me), to role model good balance, and to practice what I preach. It is very very important for my survival and this often makes running and racing much more important to me in some ways than probably most of the runners standing there at the start alongside me.

I line up a few rows back, further than I would if I was fitter. After the National Anthem, off we go. I am immediately trapped behind a wall of people, most running too slow for where they seeded themselves. I try to find my way around groups of runners without running too far out of my way. I try to be patient, but I really just need room to run without getting jostled around. 

After hitting the accelerator to get clear space, I see my pace is 6:28 at less than a half mile into this thing. I am pleasantly surprised! No way! I didn't expect to see that at all.  It is clearly too fast, but it doesn't feel terrible and that is the best part!  

I pump the breaks to get myself closer to a 7:00 pace. I feel good! My breathing is not out of control (yet). My legs feel springy and energized. Nothing hurts!  But I know running too fast is a trap. Lactate is building up, imperceptibly, behind the scenes in my blood stream. It is only a matter of seconds to minutes before a pace that seemed unbelievably easy to hold becomes soul-crushingly hard and requires even more slow-down to recover from after the LT is over-shot that if I just slowed before overshooting, which then destroys average overall pace. I decide to aim for 7:00 and see how that feels. I work on slowly, slowing down but a part of me is still falling for the false promises my lungs and legs are making me, making me wonder if 6:45 is possible… I slow and hit M1 6:44.  

Ok, I have 4M more to go and I know better than to start too fast. No. 6:45 average pace is not possible. I am out of practice. I have no frame of reference. What is "too fast?" I have no idea? Negative splitting everything is what brought me great success last season.  Going out too fast on a wing and pray is a formula for negative experiences, not negative splits. Accepting my ability and working on control, holding back until it is time to kick, this is the path to PRs. But to do this I need to trust that I know my ability really well. Today, I am not sure of my ability so I get to mess this race up judgment free and then use the information I gather to make better decisions next time. Next time, I will have no excuse to not negative split. No pressure ;) 

I get the watch to read 7:0x. Could I possibly come back in M5 with a strong enough kick to dip me back into 6:59 average? Maybe?   Let's make that the plan: Find a seemingly sustainable pace and try to reserve another gear for M5. I stop looking at the watch and start running by feel. I don’t care what the pace says, sustainable is a feeling, not a time. M2: 7:04 

We continue on towards Ocean Ave. I can hear Dave D. playing his trumpet. That makes me smile. I wave my arms to catch his attention and he cheers for me like I am winning the Olympics! This gave me a little boost as I head down the road that parallels the boardwalk that I run almost weekly. 

A guy moves to my side and says “So are we Winning this thing!?"

I answer “I don’t know about you, but I am! I haven't run a race in months so just getting myself to the Start was a Win for me… this stuff, the running part, this is the celebration!”… 

He says something back, that I can’t make out and then pulls ahead. I let him go. I am running by feel. I don’t care what others around me do. M3 7:04.

We turn and I feel tired. The pace is catching up to me. I am about to blow past my threshold. I feel my legs subtly heavier. I feel my breathing has increased a little. I have 2M to go. I slow a little because I want to make sure I have something left for M5. I don't look at my watch. I don't care what it says. Again, I just run by feel. This is the only way I know to run my best. Sustainable is a feeling, not a time on the watch. M4 7:19.  

As we hit 1M to go, I starting thinking in tenths. "Just tenths to go!"  I start thinking about the intervals I do and how I ran 59 seconds for the last 300 after doing 14 other 300s before it.  How maybe with 1 minute to go, I can find a faster gear, not 300 meters in 59 seconds fast, but faster than what I am doing now. 

I focus on form, try to keep up my turnover, and work the last mile the best I could. About three ladies blow past me in the last mile... I just let them go. Today is the day for competition to crush me down the home stretch, but come fall, I hope to be the one with the blazing fast finish. Today is not that day. M5 7:04

Once I met back up with SuperDave we walked back to the car. I was hoping to head back to the venue to socialize with my team, take photos, cheer on the award winners. But once at my car, I realized it was almost 10:00 am, I had 8 runners on my roster to write plans for and I wanted to be done with work as soon as possible. I messaged Laura and Suz to apologize for leaving. I just really needed to get home to work.  

I did not expect to win anything. It turns out I was 1st in my Age Group a--nd our team actually won overall too!  <3  

This is a great way to start the training cycle!  

Time:  35:19 (7:04)
Place: 26th F OA
AG: 1st Place

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Recap and A Fresh Start #ChasingSunrises

It has been a long time since my last race report and it is time to start again!  Some of the best races of my life never were reported about, because I have been overworked, overstressed, spread too thin, and short on time. I needed to prioritize my work-life and some other heartbreaking issues (not to be discussed) over running for a few months. Now that things are in a better place for me, I am ready to get back to doing what I love most. Bring on the races!  :) 

Here is my recap to get the ball rolling:

First, I had a fantastic Fall season. I broke 3 hours (2:56) in Utah for the first time in early September. I ran a few 1:27’s Half Marathons in August and again late Sept. I broke 19:00 in the 5k twice. Then I broke 3 hours again at Steamtown (2:55). The following weekend, I set an Age Group American Record in the 6 hour (43.16M) in October. The next weekend, I  ran a 1:28 Half in the most miserable weather (at Beat 539, which was a great first-time event and I hope they do it again). The following weekend I placed 4th at the 50M Nationals (Tussey). After a little rest, I ran a 6:00 paced 8k at Ashenfelter, followed by another sub-19 5k and then I decided I needed a rest from racing.  

I went on to simply run for the joy of running! I felt like a machine. I was logging an average of almost 125M per week for a few weeks in a row, running just shy of 500M in January. I planned to taper for John Prices’ 100K in Virginia, but as soon as I reduced my volume, I became acutely aware that all my running was really just the glue that was holding me together while I tried to figure out how to cope with significant, insurmountable, and painful stress (which I will not discuss here).   

I needed time, a lot of time, to sort out my thoughts. I needed to grieve. I needed to give myself room to breathe and not feel like I was under anyone’s microscope.  

In March, after a month of feeling terrible, I did run Caumsett 50K Nationals at 8:45 pace.  I was thrilled with that 4:32, because I really had no business running that well considering how crappy and stressed out I felt. The only reason I was able to finish at all was because of Kim.  The support of her friendship was holding me together and when I wanted to just quit anything or everything that felt hard in my life, it was nice to have a friend nearby who believed in me. After walking up a hill at about Mile 18?, Kim caught me and just running a few strides together helped me remember that I am stronger than I think. I found my second wind and together we persevered, pulling each other around that 5k loop course until we both ended up in the top 10 at Nationals and Kim had a new PR that was almost 1 minute per mile faster than her fastest 50K before that. This is even more impressive when I say that we also missed the start by about 2 minutes! Now we get to joke about how we passed every single runner on the course that day and still managed to bring home USATF National Championship medals! 

In March, I tried very hard to get my body back to training, but I clearly needed more time to heal, inside and out. My 125M weeks were a thing of the past. They likely left me too beat up to do anything well. Running yourself into the group is great for numbing pain, but not great training. 100M per week ok, that feels great and I can recover from that. 125M per week, that is likely more than I ever need to do to myself again in training.  My body felt run down, beat down, and tired. I lost motivation to run a lot and started gaining weight fast from being less active but still eating like I was running a ton. My nutritional choices were also a little more relaxed, as I did not see the point of eating the way I eat when I am training hard because I was NOT training hard. I don't need a post-workout protein shake after a 2M treadmill run. I have more carbs because they seem to enhance mood a little and cake tastes good.  If I am not racing, then I am going to I want a cookie. 

I found myself more often than not, eating things I knew would not help my fitness improve, but I just was not ready to get focused on fitness and I was very much OK with that. I knew when I was ready to focus, I would focus 100%. I am confident that I know how to get myself in Race Shape.  But until I felt I was ready to focus on fitness, I was OK with not racing, being a little less fit, and eating the cake because it tasted good.  I really needed to not be so demanding of myself for a little while.

Kim and I had planned to run Dawn to Dusk to Dawn way back in December.  Kim trained her butt off, running more than one 100M training week, despite rolling an ankle while away on vacation. We finished that last 100M with Two Rivers Marathon, 3 weeks after the 50K Nationals. Our plans for Two Rivers was to just finish the race and get the big week of training volume checked off the training To-Do list… time didn’t matter.  We both recently averaged 8:45 pace for 50K in early March, so 8:45 or better seemed like a realistic goal.

During our warm up, I felt so awful. My Achilles was so tight it hurt to jog. I could not do anything but hope that once we started racing, I would feel fine. Gun goes off and I feel great. The downhill start is super steep… I start fast and then peel back to a 7:23 M1, only to realize something is very very wrong.  I slow more and feel my shins and Achilles are just hot and inflamed.  By Mile 1.8 every step is painful. My lower legs are on fire!  By 2M I am walking. By 2.5M I am stopped, just standing on the side of the road frustrated by the fact that my legs just don’t seem to want to work and I don’t know what to do about this. So I just start walking and hope the tightness will loosen and the pain will go away. It doesn’t.  I am almost in tears from frustration. I try run-walking b/c I just need to get back to my car.  I know that I can turn at 11M, but that is so so far away. This race is desolate. There is no one who could help me. I don’t have my phone. I just need to get off the course asap, but that is still going to take hours at this pace.

I finally get off the course and sit in the restaurant with Anne and Bob while waiting for Kim to finish a huge week of mileage with a marathon-LR.  She ends up “accidentally” running a 3:37!  This is fantastic!  Another BQ for Kim, by accident! ;)

I do my best (poorly) to show that I am thrilled my friend did so great (my experience is no reflection on hers and I want her to celebrate)… I know she is trying hard to not be too exuberant b/c she know I am not thrilled with my race and something is wrong and concerning me… but I know I am dealing with emotional stress not really physical stress.  Physically, I am strong and nothing happened that hurt me. I just wasn’t able to function and that felt a little scary.

The next weekend (April 2nd) was the first Clifton team race of the year, Indian Trails 20k, on a hilly course. I was very much afraid that the hills would set off some reaction again where pain debilitated me… so I start with caution and somehow manage to negative split to run a 7:19 paced 20k. I felt great!  No Achilles pain. No shin pain. Nothing hurt.  My last mile was 6:35 and I felt like whatever happened last weekend was a fluke.

I register for the Cherry Blossom 10k on April 9th. All I want to do is beat 7:20 pace and I will be pleased. The day before there is a special Pop-Up Tea Shop at the MET in NYC. I ask Sid if he would go have tea with me. (I was obsessed with Tea for a little while).  We make a day of it, but I didn’t realize we would end up walking 8M in the city.  The park was beautiful with cherry blossom everywhere.  The weather was gorgeous.  We walk and talk and have tea together. We have lunch at the MET. It is a nice day, but I could tell my legs, Achilles, and feet were so tired.  Dressy shoes (flats) were not the best choice for that amount of time on my feet, but in the moment I just didn’t think much of it.

The next morning, I feel tired but this is only a 10k. I ran a 20k at 7:19 pace, so I should have no trouble running this 10k 7:19 or faster. I start off feeling fine, but as the miles pass I could feel my achilles starting to feel tight.  I assume this is because the first half of this race has some inclines.  I am hopeful that the declines will feel much better… but at Mile 4, my left Achilles feels painful and I can’t go on.  I shut down to whatever pace I can run that would allow me to finish the race so I could get back to my car.  I manage a 7:22 average pace despite the last 2 Miles being around 8:30s. I hobble back to my car, realizing that this magnitude of this strain is greater than anything I have experienced ever in running and I am most likely NOT going to run Boston this year.  After a few days, I am sure I can't finish a marathon like this and I cancel my hotel.

Kim and I were also registered for a mountain marathon in Virginia on 4/22.  I was hopeful that by skipping Boston, I could run that one, even if slow.  But even by 4/18 I knew I could not. I had to skip that race as well.

The next race on the calendar was Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (a 24 hour track race). I knew there was nothing good going to happen for me at this event, but Kim was ready to shine! This was Mother’s Day weekend and boy did we get hit a Mother of a Storm. It rained from before the start until 11pm that night. Once again Kim and I are late to the start. Only by 1 minute this time. We are improving. This meant that we ended up racing in the crappy shoes we had on while setting our camp up, planning to change into racing flats just before the start. Well, that did not happen.

We had some trouble wrestling with our pop-up canopy (I forgot one of the pegs was broken and I still need to ask Sidney if he can help fix this). This delayed us. It was more important to get a dry camp set up than it was to be on time to the start. In 40 degrees with high wind gusts and heavy to moderate rains all day, we needed to make sure our gear was going to be ok.  Our set-up was good.  We had my two-man tent with rain cover set up under the pop-up canopy and this worked well to keep about 90% of our stuff dry.

In the first three hours, I already started to have trouble with my body temperature. We were doing well, started slow and stuck to the plan we created to stay on our pace goal.  But I was so so so cold. My hands were so cold they stopped hurting, but they were useless to me. I ended up wearing two rain jackets and an emergency poncho to dry to stay warm.

The only way I could keep my body temp up was to keep running while wrapped in plastic.  Walk breaks would drop my body temp too low. If I stopped moving to take care of a need, I was in trouble. I couldn't think clearly.  I fought through two bouts of feeling mildly confused and hypothermic before I decided at 9 hours in to the race that I was done for the day.  I needed to change my clothes and that would be hard to do. I needed to feel my hands again. I needed to take a nap. I needed to crew Kim. I needed to break down the camp. I needed to load the car back up. I needed to drive us home. I was very much OK with stopping at 43 miles. The irony is that my achilles felt great the whole time! I am sure the flat track helped.  This trip was 100% worth because I got to witness Kim run like a Goddam Machine in the worst conditions I have ever run in and she just never gave up on her goal.  She managed a new 24 PR with a great finish, once again!  I am so happy she went and pushed through!

I had hoped that D3 would jump start my fitness focus like the Virginia 24 hour did for me last year.  But this did not happen.  I still was just not ready.  Life stress was still pummeling me in full force, and I now my health was on my mind.  I needed a few exams to rule out a very unlikely possibility of cancer again (which all worked out as I knew it would, but just another round of biopsies and ultrasounds really freaked me out for a while).

Finally, by June, I got my shit together.  Things shifted. I made some changes to all my work schedules to give me more time to decompress.  I finished a semester of school which took one major task off my plate.  I started sleeping a lot better.  I started getting up a lot earlier to train. I found a way to accept the stress that will always be a part of my life from here forward.  And I decided that I was ready to get back to work.

Alanna decided to join me in some really focused training to help me and her prepare to be strong and fit by fall. She has given me a gift by agreeing to torture herself with me ;).   Kim has fully recovered from her 24-hour Monsoon PR at D3 and is also ready to get back to work too.  We all are focused on speedwork, long runs, tempos, hills, balanced training, balanced nutirition, getting rest, and just coping with all the crap life hurls at us.  

I now have a great training schedule with Alanna and Kim. Most of this involves getting up early to witness the beautiful sun rising over trails, the ocean, even the track, with people who care about me enough to get up at 4 am to do this with me.  <3 

And when not running I get to look forward to what SuperDave and I call our “morning meetings.” We call each other when I am driving to my hospital work to hash out things and come up with great plans that help us both stay focused on the important stuff. I need this time. Sid has also stepped up more than I realized he could or would to help lift me out of this quagmire that I have I felt stuck in for months. As a result of giving myself time to process and heal, to find my way out of the dark, following a path illuminated patiently by the love and support from those closest to me, only recently have I felt like myself again.

I now look forward to getting up in the darkness to get out the door early, to see the world brighten as I start my day... making sure to take care of myself, my needs, first... to focus on setting myself up for success (with good nutrition, restful sleep, and healthy coping). I am ready to allow the magic to happen. And I have the best friends in the world #chasingsunrises with me!  I am ready to get back to work <3 

(Next Up, RR: Belmar 5M)