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)