Sunday, October 23, 2016

Steamtown Marathon, Scranton, PA, 10/9/16

I have started and restarted this race report many times. I have replayed this day in my mind, over and over, and it feels really good. 

I needed this. There is a lot of chaos going on around me right now that won't be discussed in any race report. Sometimes just having a good day means a lot more than anyone looking in from the outside could ever realize. It may seem to some that running and racing (for us non-professional athletes) is "not real life". But sometimes these moments, these “not-real-life” moments are so very necessary because they let us escape from those “real-life moments” that are out of our control and a little painful. When a “not-a-real life moment” lifts you up in a healthy way, reminds you that you are strong, and gives you the chance to celebrate something that feels wonderful, then that makes those "not-a-real life moment" very real. I will cherish this day. 

Last month I ran a 2:56:14 at Big Cottonwood. That race was not easy. I walked away from that race in awe of what just happened. It felt like a dream. I got lots of kudos from those who were very proud of me… but (as Kim knows) there was this little voice, this very critical, judgmental little voice in the back of my mind, that questioned how much of those 3 minutes and 46 seconds of sub-3 time was a product of the course and how much was because of how hard I worked

Could I run a sub-3 again? Will I fall right back into running the 3:11- 3:15 best efforts that I have done so many times before? Maybe none of that sub-3 time was because of me and my efforts?  Ok, some of it had to be, I knew that (but self-doubt is irrational). I have worked very VERY hard. I look different. I feel different. All my performance have improved. They project out to a sub-3 marathon. 


I had nine Creating Momentum runners, including Kim and myself running Steamtown. I like to send my runner to Steamtown for fall race goals because the course is one of the best in the country for great running in October. If you want to BQ, consider Steamtown! 

At first, I was not intending to go. But Kim was going to Steamtown to run her butt off and I really wanted to be there to see her shine. In fact, all of my runners were very well-prepared and ready to have great races. I decided to give up the chance to improve my scorecard in our local race series, and go support my friend and my runners!

The night before the race, Kim and I were up until midnight hashing out various race day pacing scenarios. I spent very little time preparing my own plan, but that was ok. I did not really want to think too hard about it. I had trained for months, peaked, and tapered ALL for Big Cottonwood…Steamtown was an after thought. I could still run great, but if I did not, I would not be shocked. 

So I planned to try to run the first half about a minute slower than my half PR (which is 1:27:21) as long as that pace felt sustainable. Most people don't negative split Steamtown. The hills in the second half of Steamtown are more challenging than what I faced in the second half of Big Cottonwood. I tried to be realistic and not set my heart on another sub-3 or a negative split. How could I really expect to run great when the training cycle ended a long time ago? Regardless of reality, I knew I was going to go for it. I will either run a sub-3 or blow up trying. What did I have to lose? This was not my goal race. I already met my goal at Cottonwood.  

Race Day:
I took a gel, lined up towards the front, and off we went. I felt good. Comfortable. I had written 8 pace plans for this race for my runners. I knew the course like the back of my hand. I expected M1 and M2 to be fast, M3 to be slow and the M4, M5, and M6 to be some of the fastest of the race. 

M1 - 6:35
M2 - 6:36
M3 - 7:00
M4 - 6:37
M5 - 6:26
M6 - 6:41

There were no surprises so far. I did have moments where I started to feel my back get tight. And moments where my pace felt harder than I hoped it would feel. But my plan was to pay attention to my breathing, not get ahead of myself, and not allow lactate to build too high too soon. I find myself thinking about lactate recycling a lot now when I run. I don't run based on pace, I run based upon perceived effort. The plan was to run comfortably hard until I give myself permission to race harder (at M18) or until my body lets me know it could not do it today.

I don't look at splits when racing. I let the watch auto lap and I periodically check the watch for "current lap pace" or "average pace" to see what I am doing.  I am really pleased to see how evenly I held the pace despite some inclines in this section.

M7 - 6:43
M8 - 6:44 (I forced myself to take another gel at M8, even though I felt I didn’t need it.)
M9 - 6:43

For much of this race, I ran on autopilot, a little scared of what the outcome could be. I liked having my last race be a sub-3 PR and once I cross that line slower, I knew I would feel a little sad. 

M10 - 6:37
M11 - 6:44
M12 - 6:42
M13 - 6:44

At the halfway point, a guy asked about our split.  Half 1:28:10. (Looking back to Big Cottonwood now, I am surprised to see I came through 1:28:12!). 

We started talking and then I noticed the pace said 6:52 for the first time since the uphill mile 3. I had to politely excuse myself from chatting, conserve my energy and focus on staying on target.  M14 - 6:48

I picked up the pace knowing that if I really wanted a Sub-3 again, I needed a good 15-20M stretch, because the hills were coming after 20 (with the worst at Mile 23-24). If I carefully (comfortably) banked a little time now, I could spend it later and still sneak in around 2:59. 
M15 - 6:30

Ok, that felt fantastic. Really much better than thought. So I keep pushing the pace. I expected to positive split this course and with a1:28:10 I had some time to do it.  
M16 - 6:38, M17 - 6:42.

I wanted to hit 18M in 2:00 to have a good shot at my goal. I make it there in 2:00:54. Close enough!  M18 - 6:31 (I take my second gel here).

I knew mile 19 was slower… but I could not remember why.  I assumed there was a hill, but there was actually a dirt path. The terrain change slowed me down, but I made an extra effort to push myself to not lose much time. I promised myself that once back on the pavement, I could dig deep to keep my momentum going. M19 - 6:47, M20 - 6:39, M21 - 6:38

Starting in mile 22, the hills begin. I know the worst is M24. I am digging with everything I have in me. I am running my heart out! M22 - 6:40, M23 - 6:42

I get to M24. I am determined to not let that hill destroy me!  I lean into it. I drive my arms hard.  Someone yells out “Way to used your upper body to work the hill.” M24 is tough. Really tough.  M24 - 6:56

As soon as I crest M24, I fight my desire to slow and instead work to get back on pace. I try to shift gears and I find that I have another gear in me!  I am racing the clock.
M25 - 6:34

I am overcome with shock that I may do it again. This is driving me. It will be close… 26.2 is one thing, but this course always comes up long.  26.4, 26.5 are common course distances that our imperfect watches tell us we ran. I need to expect this and take nothing for granted. 

I crest the last incline, a man yells out, “You need to hustle.You will be the last woman to break three!”  Oh wow, I have 6+ minutes left and some distance less than a mile on my watch and this guy says it will be really close…So that means I have a chance to do it again!. 

"DIG!... DIG!... DIG!..."  M26 - 6:27  

As ran my heart down and approached the finish line, I noticed the clock and it shocked me. 
Last .35 - 2:07 (6:04 pace)

...2:55:43... 2:55:44... 2:55:45 ... ticked down as I crossed the mat.  

I stop running. Everything around me freezes or maybe everything just seemed to be moving so fast around me it was a blur... In that moment, I am alone in space and time. I look at my watch 2:55:47.  

Oh thank goodness!  I DID IT!!!  Sub-3!  But wait, that time can't be correct?!  

And then it hit me. Oh WOW! I PR’d… I could NOT believe it!!  And a few moments later, I realized that I had to negative split to do it. I still cant believe I negative split the hills. 

For the next hour, I was able to witness a stream of Creating Momentum Runners coming through, almost all running the races they had hoped for and most setting HUGE PR’s and getting their BQ’s.

As I stood at the finish, the RD walked up to me and said “Congratulations! You were one of our sleeper elites! We had no idea who you were!  Why didn't you register as an elite runner?”  
I replied, “I didn’t think I was fast enough to even consider that.”  And he said “Well, next year you need to request an elite bib”…. and walked away leaving my head spinning, in such a good way. 

It was just such a great day. I felt validated as an athlete. I felt validated as a coach. But most importantly, I was able to experience life from a position where happiness outweighed hurt. And I really needed that. 

Time 2:55:45 (6:43)
OA: 37/ 1729
Gender: 4th Place Female OA
And 6th Fastest Time ever run by a Master’s Female at Steamtown. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guest Blogger: Race Reports by Rene Seigrist

Are you ready to be inspired! :)  

When I was #rebuildingthecar and working on getting stronger, I decided to run Run for the Red as a check in marathon to see how I felt. At mile 5, I met this wonderful person with an amazing attitude. She was running her second marathon. We worked the course together for many miles, talking about running, life, struggles, and goals. At the end of the race, right there on the track, Rene found me, gave me a huge hug and said she wanted to work with me for her next race.  

I am so thrilled that she followed through with her plan. I knew she had tremendous potential. She is a fighter, but most importantly she is open to collaborating as well as accepting guidance about matters I felt were going to be game changers for her. As we worked together, I could see her growing week-after-week. Rene was one of the reasons I wanted to run the Steamtown Marathon.  I wanted to be at the race where I knew Rene was going to shine!

Here is Rene's story!  


Two Races, One Runner, One Coach, One Goal

I did it! I freaking did it! I qualified for Boston! But before I talk about how I did that, let's rewind a bit so you can understand the back story and why this day became so incredibly important. I ran my first marathon in November of 2015, Philly Rock & Roll, after coming off of an injury induced by sub-par coaching. This injury left me feeling bitter and raw towards what was becoming my sport. This marathon was HUGE! A milestone if you will. The beginning of getting back to my sport. All I wanted to do was run and I finally made it to my first marathon. I finished with a time of 3:47. I beat my 4 hour time goal and even had a negative split. Many first time marathon runners say, "I'm never doing that again". Not this woman. No, I wanted to run my next. I found a spring marathon, Run for the Red and this is where the story begins.

I set out simply to beat my first marathon time. That's all I wanted to do. I trained decently for months along with my running partner. The month of May came and I found myself in a high stress situation. I sighed and cried more times that I can count during the month of May. But, I made it to the starting line. I ran without huge expectations as I'm fully aware that stress can do one of two things, make a run go incredibly well or make a run end in disaster. I found myself running next to another female. We engaged in typical runner conversation, our running back stories and our careers. She learned that I'm a personal trainer/nutritionist by trade and I learned she's a badass running coach with a resume that I could only dream of! We ran together for quite some time, even sharing our more personal side. I even found myself being coached by her as she saw me gassing out and offered me a gel. We ended up getting separated in the later part of the race. I crossed the finish line beating my previous time by quite a bit. My new PR was 3:36, so close to a BQ! Qualifying time for my age group is 3:35. I found the woman I was speaking with during the race, learned her name and decided to contact her thinking maybe I have the potential to qualify for Boston (which was not a goal before). Her name is Shannon McGinn Dos Santos. My faith is incredibly strong so I knew God placed her at the right spot at the right time for a specific reason. I needed a coach and a mentor.

Rene at the start of Philly RNR Half
Onto a new outlook and a new start on training. I'm excited and nervous. I work in the fitness industry so I want to do well. I want to do well for me, my coach, my family and my clients. Do I have something to prove, hell yes I do! 

Here we go! My runs began and boy were the runs intimidating. I completed each training run with pride, reporting to my coach. I was her problem child in the beginning. I crave speed so I ran my easy runs too fast...Yes, I paid for that later. 

As my training runs got more and more difficult, I looked forward to my easy runs. I eagerly looked forward to each and every training run. 

Over time, Shannon and I picked my races and strategized. We decided on Philly Rock & Roll Half Marathon, September 2016, as my check in race. How does my speed feel? How is my fueling formula working? Do my kicks feel good? Again, a check in race...however, a new half PR wouldn't hurt. Wink wink. Onto the marathon...Steamtown, October 2016.

PHILLY ROCK & ROLL, September 18th, 2016. I have never been more nervous for a race...EVER. I've been nervous. I always get nervous no matter the distance. But this nervousness took the cake! I spoke with Shannon that morning via email and we spoke over the phone in the week prior. She reassured me that I'm trained. I've done the work. I walked from my hotel to the start line with my manpanion, still nervous. It was friggin hot and humid that morning. What the heck??? This had to be one of the most miserable mornings to run a race. People were sweating at the start line and we hadn't even moved yet. Here I am at the start feeling like a caged race horse. 

This is it...go hard or die trying. I decided to not let the heat get in the way of MY PR, MY RACE, MY CONFIDENCE BUILDER. I lovingly refer to this race as such, my confidence builder, which was why this race made me so nervous. I knew this race would make or break my confidence for Steamtown. 

The gun goes off and I begin running. My pace is to be sub 740. I hung back for the first mile as I have a tendency to crave speed. I wanted to leave some fuel in the tank just in case the heat got to me later. Mile one done and I felt good. I thought, ok, let's speed it up now. My second mile was my fastest, sub 7 with mile 3 being a low 7 and I knew I needed to slow that down so I settled in and found my pace. 

My confidence began to rise as I ran. The confidence kept hold until roughly mile 8. Oh the heat. Mile 8 and 9 were my slowest miles, over 740. What the hell? I stifled this feeling and pushed. I pace got faster, back to the mid 7's. I needed this race, this PR. Mile 10 hits. I look down at my watch and realize that I'm good. If I hold pace or slow a little bit, I will still achieve my PR. 

Finish line...YES! I beat my previous PR!!! My old PR was 1:41 and it's now 1:38:35 with an average pace of 7:27! I did it and I did it on a day when a PR seems unachievable considering the heat and humidity. 

Not only did I build my confidence when it comes to speed, I built my mental and physical strength confidence...meaning my heart and my guts. Believe me, I felt like I wanted to puke, but I didn't care. The heat and humidity rattled many runners that day. I was proud of myself for hanging on!

COACH...I DID IT! I got my new PR!!! To make a long story short, Shannon was extremely proud...but the response that made me feel the best was "how do you feel about shooting for a 325-327 at Steamtown?" Holy marathon goal was 330. Can I pull off a 325-327? Shannon said yes and she would not say yes unless she knows I can do it. My response? Let's go for it! I trained some more over the next 4 weeks, enjoying taper mode and communicating more with Shannon.


Steamtown, October 9th, 2016. I wake up...hmmm I'm going for a run today. I was excited, but not nervous...AT ALL. Is this odd or normal? I don't know, but I'll take it. Lets rewind a bit to packet pickup. I saw Shannon. It was so comedic. Shannon didn't hear what I said to my manpanion moments before seeing her. In my I've spotted a celebrity voice, "THERE'S SHANNON! I NEED TO HUG HER!" I knew her hug would help to subside any left over fears. 

Rene and me - Pre-Steamtown
Apparently, it worked. I enjoyed my evening and my dinner and woke up with nothing...again, no nervous jitters, just excitement. I had my breakfast which included oatmeal with peanut butter, my Powerade and a quick shot of coffee. I dress, write my notes on my left forearm which include the difficult mile points and Isaiah 40:31, which has now become my mantra. I encourage everyone to look this up. 

I head out of the hotel to board a bus to the start line. Once I'm there, I have my apple which has become a pre-race staple and begin warming up my muscles a bit. This includes a few pee stops. While enjoying a warm up, I realize that the race begins 30 minutes later than I thought! Oh jeez. Thank God I packed two extra gels!!! This is good though. It gives me time to call my grandfather, my Peeper, to have him read my favorite bible verse to me. He's such a prayer warrior and his voice is strong yet calming. I call my manpanion to fill him in on my air headedness so he (or my parents who are on phone stand by) doesn't worry when I finish 30 minutes later than anticipated. 

I also find Shannon! I get to catch a hug, a few words of encouragement and a pre race photo with her. Then off I go!!! Another warm up and start line ahoy! I take a gel (thank God for extra)! Kaboom! It's a friggin cannon start. It's good I was pre-warned by the awesome woman I sat with on the bus ride to the start line. My pacing needs to be 7:42 for the 1st half of the race. If I keep this pace and complete the first half around a 1:41, I can settle down into an 8:05 pace for the 2nd half of the race. 

What a kick!!! 
The first mile was slower than I would've liked. The pack of runners had me boxed in a bit. Lesson learned...go to the front. This mile was sub-8 at 7:53." Let's speed it up now," I said to myself. I finished the first half of the race with 1 mile (mile 1) at a 7:50 pace, 3 other miles at a 7:40 and the the 7:30's! Holy crap! I felt good! So good that I'm had a conversation with a young, first time marathoner (who I ended up handing one of my extra gels b/c he didn't have enough fuel, pay it forward). 

Do I cut back a bit now that the first half is done? Coach said 8:05 for the second half of the race and any mile faster than 8:05 is a bonus. I rolled with that discussion and decided to keep my pace as long as I could. I can't believe what I'm seeing! Sub-7:40's! Sub-7:30's! Every time a mile or a hill got difficult, I said the verse that was written on my arm out loud and kept moving. Mile 15, 18 and 20 were in the 7:20's with my fastest mile being 7:22! I couldn't help but feel proud and it showed in my posture as I attacked the hills. I ran one mile, mile 24 which has the longest hill in the race, over 8 minutes (8:04).

Admittedly, the hill within mile 26 is the meanest hill I've ever experienced. It's at the very very end! What the heck?! I kept it together and I RAN once I reached the top of that hill! I sprinted the last .2 like it was my job! My running race photo is during this sprint. I see the finish and run through it with tears in my eyes. 

I click off my watch...3:20:50 with an average pace of 7:38! What?! OMG! I walk through the cattle shoot of volunteer sweaty racer catchers...I didn't fall but one helped to steady me. I see Shannon! She was waiting for me at the end! We celebrate, hug and I cry. This moment was HUGE for me! A BQ! A HUGE BQ! I did it!!! We did it!!! The celebration continued with my manpanion and friends who were at the race. A family celebration was shared later.

I couldn't believe what I had done. A goal that I never knew I could achieve has now been reached. I will get to run Boston in 2018!!! I knew running was my sport, but now I know that I am in fact A RUNNER.

- Rene Seigrist

Monday, October 3, 2016

Little Silver 5k (sub-19!), USATF-NJ Open Women's Team Championship, Little Silver NJ, 10/2/16

So...Anthony bought me a shirt from WWE,
even though I do not watch WWE.
I wore it today, just to make him happy.
Mission Accomplished :)
I promised Anthony I would run the Little Silver 5K since it was a USATF-NJ Open Ladies Team Championship and even though I am 40 I could still drop down and compete as an Open runner.  This race came after my first real rest week after my marathon and two half marathons. 

If I was going to race this 5k, I wanted to try to run my best.  The last 5k I raced was a PR in 19:19, but that was in early August when I was on the track doing a lot of speedwork. I was building up to Peak for my goal marathon. Since that race, I have tapered, run my goal marathon, and took the last few weeks to step back from high volume training to allow for some recovery… BUT, I have run two half marathons since then for good reasons.

My half marathon last week went very well. I just have not gotten any speed work at the paces I feel I should have to prepare a 5K PR. But I also remember running hills repeats the morning of my current 5k PR. And the weather, back in August, was very hot and humid.  One hand, I have not seen a track since early August and that is a long time (but I have done intervals on my treadmill but not as fast as I would have done them on the track). The lack of quality speed sharpening made me question if could maintain a new PR pace. But the cool weather and the fact that I have really peaked in fitness this September, and because my last PR was set after a AM hill training session, all allowed me to believe I did have a real solid chance at a new PR and maybe even a sub-19.  So I decided to go for it.

This was basically a flat course. One lap and a track finish. I love track finishes! All week long I had visualized breaking 19.  I planted the seeds.  I knew I had a shot. This would be 20 second PR. If I paced this flat course properly I had a chance. 

My goal was to maintain control of myself and start off at 6:12 pace (one second faster than my current PR pace).  Each mile after, I wanted to run a few seconds faster, ideally finishing with my first bona fide sub-6 Mile in a race (that did not have a massive descent).  I wanted my Last mile to be my fastest!  If I averaged 6:07 or better by the end of the race, I could break 19.  So there was my plan… 6:12-6:07-5:59 and kick to break 19:00. 

Sub-6!  I was really excited to try to run a sub-6 mile at the end. I remember when I was stuck at 7:00. I had so much trouble getting used to the idea that I could average in the 6:5x range that it seemed more like a mental block than a true limit to my physical ability

So today my mantra became Don’t Fear the Five!” 

Angela, a Clifton Road Runner teammate, and I did a short warm up.. with some speed to it because I thought the start was much closer than it actually was.  With 4 minutes to go and us not being at the starting line, I was getting worried. The fast ending pace to the warm up helped. 
I lined up at the front since I know I plan to start at 6:12. A few people jump in front to me.  I am sure they are not 6 minute milers, but this is how it goes at road races. (And I saw them finish in the 25:00+ range at the end of the race so they were truly not seeded properly).  I expect to get jammed up for the first few steps and just hope I can smoothly get through them.

The gun goes off and the road is wet and slippery. I can feel my feet slip back with each step. I worry that this will slow me down.  Every second counts and losing some energy return from every step is not going to help me PR.  I do get a good start. Once out of traffic, I look at my watch and it says 5:52 pace.  I count at least 10 ladies in front or beside me at this pace.  Wow!

I assessed myself.  I feel great, my breathing was good,  my energy was good, but the pace was too fast.  I remember my mantra “Don't Fear the Five!” but NOT in mile 1

I know too much to run myself into the ground in the first 6 minute of a 5k. I settled down quickly to get on my pace plan (there is no excuse for not following a plan when all we need to do is slow down pay attention to the computer attached to our wrists). I appreciated tremendously how comfortable I felt.  M1 6:11

M1 on target! So now I need to focus on M2.  I am running with a group of fast women.  It is awesome to run like this.  I feel stronger in a group than I do on my own, but I was focusing on My Plan and I wanted to get M2 to a 6:07, if possible. I felt strong. My breathing was good. My body felt good. One woman, Chelsea, broke away with me from our group of 4 during this mile. Together, we worked to pass some ladies who had gone out faster than us.  M2 6:03

Mile 2 was 4 seconds faster than I planned, BUT I felt good and my breathing was good.  I was ready to get to work on my mission to see a sub-6 mile as the last mile of my race.  

Don't Fear the Five!”

As we start mile 3, I remember where I met Chelsea. She was the runner who pushed me to my PR 5k in August.  That day, I sat behind her until M2. Then I pulled ahead of her in the last mile. I tried to get my pace to a 5:59 for that final mile, but my legs got so heavy in the last .1 that I could not hold it.  She blasted past me with a strong kick.  She beat me, but she pulled me to a 15 second PR that day.

Here we are starting Mile 3 and I am once again aiming for sub-6.  My watch is still reading 6:03 pace but my average pace is now 6:05! This means if I can hold a 6:05 pace I can break 19!…

She says “You got this” and I pull slightly ahead. She is letting me pull ahead again. I have a sense that she is really not giving up, but rather planning to do the same thing as last race. To sit back, just behind me, let me set the pace, and then blast past me on the track. This is a good strategy. It works. Knowing I am racing a smart racer, who seems to use strategy as well as speed, makes racing more fun for me. I don't really know how much she or others think about strategy, but imagining she was planning to try to blast past me again lit a fire under me and helped me focus.

Fast Form. 
Drop the arms. 
No wasted motion.  

Photo posted on GSTC Facebook page. 
Don't get out kicked again.

It feels like we just passed the Mile 2 mark when some guy yells out “Half Mile to go!”  I look at my watch and it is still in the 15:xxs!  This is crazy.  I cant believe I am doing this!

I think about Tempo Pace.  I think about Lactate Threshold. I think NOW is the time to really dig deep and push my limits.  Burn out at the finish... but not a step before. 

I dig deep. My breathing is NOW get labored. Good. This is the right time, at 2.75 miles into the race… not .75 miles in.  We turn into the school and make our way to the track.  I try to do math but my mind is fuzzy.  All I think is 22 second per 100 meter is what I used to run on the track. But that means nothing really since the finish is on some random point on the back stretch and am too fussy to figure out how much longer I have to run.  I glance at my watch and see I am in 18:2x.  This is going to be close.

I dig harder. I kick. Some person BLAST past me.  It's a guy. Phew. I can see the finish. I can see clock in the distance … It is ticking down ... 18:48... 18:49… I am running both as fast as I can while feeling like time has slowed down … 18:51… 18:52… OMG... is the finish line moving away from me… Vision gets blurry… I finally I cross! 
M3 - 5:58 (Don’t Fear the Five!
Last .14 (5:26 pace)

18:54 (6:05 pace)
5th Women
19 Overall
1st 40
Thanks to AnneMarie for being such an attentive Captain for us Master’s Aged Runners, she figured out that my time today qualified me to make the Clifton Road Runners “Wall of Honor” for runners who score over 80% as per the the WAVA Age-Graded calculations.