Monday, November 25, 2019

5k Stampede Through Clifton, Clifton, NJ 11/17/19

I forgot about this part. Racing in less than comfortable weather. I have been spoiled as I made my “come back” with shorts and singlet weather. It hasn’t even gotten bad yet. 

I forgot about the part where I throw practically all the clothes I own in a bag just before I run out the door to a race since not knowing what I will want to wear 2 hours later because it might be 29 degrees with 10-15 mph winds or maybe it will be 35 degrees with a light breeze.  

I am out of practice. I need to handle race stress better. Some stress is needed. I know. But I used to do better than this.

I spent all day Saturday setting myself up to fail under the guise of being busy with things felt I needed to get done. Most of that stuff was not important. Part of me knew I was scattered, setting myself with an excuse to stay home and that part of me I knew exactly why. Fear of Failure. Fear of seeing my dreams crumble.

I have been making a solid come-back, better than I thought I would or could. Three marathons. A half marathon. Each faster than the race before it. All negative splits. All with deliberately controlled pacing. All starting a little slower than I felt I could handle but all ending better than my expectations. All were exhilarating.

All of these races whispered a promise that I can rise to personal greatness again if just do the work and believe in myself.  

Run the right amount of miles. Lift the right amount of weight. Eat the right type of food. Sleep the right amount of hours.

What is “right?”  I don’t know. 

But I know what I was doing before when sick was all wrong for PRing. So I will find out along the way if I just do a little more “right’ over time than I what I was doing when everything was going “wrong.” 

But how much is enough?  Good question. I guess the wall will come at some point. I was thinking today might be the day I stop seeing gains and hit it. 

And then what? Then I learn where I am weak. Then the real work begins. 

This race was just a local 5k. It was a local fun run. It was not going to be competitive. It is the shortest race on my calendar. It would replace my speedwork day. I wasn’t going into it fresh.

This race should not worry me but instead, it really had me scattered-brained and self-sabotaging. As grateful as I am to have the ability to run again, there is now a growing part of me that has heard the quiet whisper that reminds me “You know how to rebuild. You have done this before. Just believe in yourself. Give yourself a chance.” 

There is a big part of me that wants to race well again. I am not done here. 

And then there is the other voice that says “but you are 44 now…” (and “so what? That doesn’t have to stop me” I counter, but I can’t deny what I heard).

Weeks ago, high from a great race, I built the skeleton outline of a dream. I worked out checkpoints and milestones for pace goals I want to hit along the way. There really is no room for setbacks if I want to hit my A goal on time (I am not going to share that until I am writing a race report about doing it). 

My Why: If you were ever once a Big Dreamer and actually were able to achieve a few of your goals and then had the universe snatch it all away without warning, you might feel what I feel. There are a lot of things that make life worth living. Dreaming and believing you can achieve great things through hard work and belief in yourself creates joy. This joy can give significant purpose and meaning to even the most menial and tedious tasks (like eating, sleeping, being structured and efficient, appreciating supportive people, appreciating good health, etc). Without dreams, without the capacity to dream of the pursuit of excellence, life can feel downright monotonous.  When you can’t do what you love, when you can’t be yourself, when the universe sucks your soul out of you, when the universe makes you find a new way to tolerate the daily grind with a smile, you will find that when the universe gives you back the chance to dream again, you may, like me, dream bigger and harder than you ever thought you could… 

And then you find the thought of racing a little 5k that could kill you dreams in 20 minutes overwhelms you with the fear of failure, the fear falling down again, onto your still bruised, beaten, and fragile ego. 

This race would be the first race in my training-race schedule where I wasn’t actually sure I could achieve the goal I set for myself. I wanted so badly to not blow it.

Yet, the night before the race, I ended up working late, getting home at 11:30 pm thinking about how I really could just sleep in, do a tempo run, get more mileage than I would likely get at the race, be done sooner, and lose just the $17 I paid to preregister.  When I looked at the 28 degree and windy weather prediction, sleeping in was starting to sound like a good idea.

But I am not a quitter. Within an hour I was in bed. Between Alexa and my cell phone, I had about half a dozen alarms set because I knew I really did want to go. 

This is part of the process. If I want to succeed I have to be willing to fail and then learn from it.
I also really wanted to see Jim O. We spent many years road racing together. There are some people who I look forward to seeing at races and Jim is always one of them. It has been a long time. 

At the race, Jim and I run the course as a warm-up and have a good time catching up. I get to do my dynamic stretching. I do my strides. I am starting to feel less nervous.  My strides are fast. 5:45 pace.  I am feeling like I have nothing to worry about.  My goal for this race was 6:20-6:40, but I am feeling like that is too conservative.  Maybe I can go sub-6:20, which would be a huge confidence booster. My last 2.5M of my half was 6:45 pace so this is not unrealistic.

I am dressed lightly and the wind feels cold. I am worried I am underdressed but I hope once moving fast I feel better. I line up 3 rows back. This is appropriate. 

The guns goes off and before the guys in front of me are even able to take a step I feel a large hand pressing its palm into the small of my small and I am shoved hard by the guy behind me. I can’t turn around because I am trying to run forward.  I yell back “STOP PUSHING ME!” and hear nothing.  This did not feel like a jostle or a mistake.  Runners are usually polite and will say “Sorry” or “Excuse me”… or something if they bump into someone by accident. This felt deliberate and it bothered me. 

The start was downhill with a tailwind. I look at my watch and I am running 5:45 pace for the first few strides.  No… this is not good.  By the first turn, I settle into 6:20 pace which feels surprising hard. 

Ben pulls up next to me. I am still mad about the shove.  I tell him I am running too fast but I am just feeling irritated by being shoved hard at the start. It helped to complain and once I said it out loud, I was over it. I didn’t fall. Nothing happened to me. It just rattled my focus.

I look up and see one woman ahead of me. She is working incredibly hard.  I ask Ben… “Who’s that? Do you she will hold on?” This isn’t even mile 1.  
Ben says “Probably not. I don’t think so." I say, “I don’t think so either.” 

And at that same moment, a very fit young girl glides past me.  I turn to Ben and I say “But I think she can”… and she drifts ahead. M1: 6:34

It is too early in this race to worry about placement or chasing down anyone. I know there is a long hill in M2 but it is not steep. It is really more like a gradual incline with some more obvious steep sections.  But I can feel the wind and my fingers in my thin gloves feel frozen. I don’t feel loose. I feel like I am working very hard. I remind myself to check my form. I look at my watch and it is slower than I hope to see. M2 6:44.

I had already passed the first woman who I knew could not hold on to her fast pace.  The young girl is pulling further ahead. I don’t know if I can catch her. We crest the “hill” and I try to open my stride. I can pick up the pace a little but not really like I hoped to do.  I am reeling in first place but we are running out of road.  M3 6:33

I hit the last turn and I give 100%.  My legs feel heavy but I try to lift my knees, use more power. The final last tenth is up the incline and into the wind. I manage a 6:13 pace for that final push, not catching first female.

I look at my watch and I see 6:36 pace for 3.14M. I know this means I was slower than 6:36.  I end up 6:41 pace for the entire 5k, one second outside of my goal pace window. 

I feel like I mentally set myself up for this day. I feel like I made sure I was going to struggle. I feel like I missed my goal window 12 hours before this race ever started. I feel like I caused my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I walked off the course thinking “I really do have a lot of work to do” and maybe that is the lesson: Wanting something badly doesn’t ensure you can do it. Wanting something badly can get you working harder than you have ever worked before, but there are no guarantees. All you can do is work hard and set yourself up to have a real chance and then go for it... I started to think about how to revise my training to help me move my skills and ability in the right direction.

The good for me was that even when finding it hard to run as fast as I wished I could, I still negative split this race. This was part of the plan and I am happy to have achieved this even when racing all out from the gun.

I watch Jim finish. I did a cool-down run and then waited for awards with Jim and Esly. It felt like it was years ago when I raced almost weekly and tried to make every team race I could make. 

I miss my Clifton team and racing as part of the USATF Road Racing Series. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings. This is going to be a fun year!

Stats:
20:45 (6:41)
2nd F
1st AG


Monday, November 11, 2019

HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon, Princeton, NJ. 11/3/19

I have run 3 marathons since Sept 14 of this year. All of those have been races used as "Training Runs." I did well, but they were not 100% race effort from the start. It is a little easier on the anxiety level when you show up at a race knowing it is not supposed to reflect your best effort. Instead, your ability to execute one specific task (negative splitting) as part of practice was the goal.

On 11/3 I raced a half for the first time in a long time. I haven’t run anything fast in a long time and I really wasn’t 100% certain what to expect. But for this race, I knew one thing, I really did want to do well. I wanted to feel like I ran hard and smart at the same time. I still wanted to make sure I negative split the race, but I also could see from the elevation chart that there was a significant hill in M6 and another in M10 but I wasn't sure how long it was. Maybe I was just tired, but I would argue that there was also an uphill in Mile 13 as well. I felt like a mountain but wasn’t even steep enough to appear like a hill on the elevation chart. :)

My plan was to take my pace from the last 12M of Atlantic City Marathon, which bounced around between 7:26 and 8:00 per mile and use that to set a somewhat realistic goal pace for this half. I decided to aim for 7:20-7:40 pace for the first 10.5M (where I thought the hill ended). Once over that last hill, then I wanted to shift gears and see what I could do. I wanted to remain comfortable through 6.55M and not start to do any harder work until the second half.  I wanted to listen to my legs on the uphills since I really have not done a lot of climbing in training.  I did not want to blow up early and see a fade. Finish strong has really been the theme of my return to racing so far and I want to keep it that way. 

There are a few honorable mentions about this race that I would like to make before I carry on about me. :)  First, this was the first race I was able to run with Alanna in a long long time.  That made this special right from the start. 

Next, I also would get to see Gary who I have been coaching for many years now.  Gary just qualified for Boston in October and was running lifetime PRs. I looked forward to seeing him in person and actually getting to run with him today! I rarely run with my clients but everything just worked out for us.

Finally, I found this race the day after my last surgery.  My surgeon has cleared me to run, finding that while under anesthesia, he could see that I only had minor issues to repair. He confirmed that from what he could see the surgery I had in June was actually a success and the infection that would not heal in my GI tract looked like it finally closed.  This was a huge success.  So the next day, I registered for this race.  

I happened to see that there was a fundraising option for those who wanted to do a little more to help the HiTOPS organization, which provides non-judgmental sexual health education to adolescents and young adults over a wide range of topics from cyberbullying, sexual health education, and LBGTQ+ support. 

I decided that if I was going to try to get back to racing and turn my nightmare around, I wanted to try to Create some Momentum along the way and raise funds for this organization. Teenagers have a lot of questions during a confusing time in their life. This organization provides support and education. I started a page and asked Alanna to help share it. With the generosity of so many people who followed my journey, who care about me, who care about Alanna, donations equal to $1700 were made to our team fundraiser page. I am so incredibly grateful to all who were able to generously offer their support. This truly made me want to do my best on race day.
Race day morning was one of the colder mornings of the year. It was about 35 degrees at the start and I wasn't sure how to even dress for a race.  I was initially layered up in tights but with the lack of wind, it didn’t feel so bad.  Then I remember this phrase an elite ultrarunning friend of mine used to say to himself when deciding what to wear: “Shorts are for Racing, Tights are for Pacing” and it made me laugh and then I put on shorts. I was here to race!

I need to work better on my pre-race timing. I am out of practice, clearly. I only had time for 1.5 miles of warm-up and then I headed to the start, where I was lucky to find Gary!

Alanna didn’t plan to race so she moved back. Gary and I went up towards the front behind the faster more ambitious runners but far enough up that our 7:30 pace would be unencumbered.  It was nice to get to catch up with Gary and all my chatter allowed me to not focus so much on my concern that today might be the first day I don’t achieve my negative split task.  I just wasn’t yet confident that I would be able to hold a 7:30 pace for most of the race and then have another gear, but I was going to surely try.  I really wanted to run a 7:20 average pace for the whole thing but I wasn't sure if that was too ambitious for me for right now. 

M1-7:29
M2-7:27

The first two miles were comfortable and were mostly net descent.  Then we hit a little incline in Mile 3 and I felt it. I felt it more than I wanted to feel it.  My legs noticed the uphill and I knew that I would need to be careful with my pacing. This was so incredibly subtle but I think it is important to listen to your body and use that to guide pacing not try to stick to the time on the watch at all costs. Gary was next to me and he looked fine. Gary just ran a 3:20 marathon. I just ran a 3:35 Marathon. I told Gary I needed slow a little just because I am out of practice on hills. It was too soon in the race for me to feel anything of concern. Gary pulled away. 

M3-7:40

I thought about the elevation chart and how I didn’t even hit the real hills yet. “I have a lot of work to do” I thought to myself. “But it is ok. I am happy where I am at right now and I just getting started!”  

The descents felt good. Nothing hurt. I was being patient. For fleeting moments, it felt hard to see ladies ahead of me and not try to catch up to them. But I just reminded myself that my job was to be able to run fast after 10.5M and not fade. Catching ladies in M4 or M5 will do nothing to help me achieve my goal. 

M4-7:28
M5-7:22

One of the significant climbs took place throughout Mile 6. As per my watch, it took me more than 4:45 seconds to get up the hill. It really wasn’t overwhelmingly steep although there were some people walking around me. At this point, I was still being patient.  A female competitor was right on my heels. I reminded myself that I was not racing her. I was waiting for my mark and then I would go. She passed me just as we crested the hill. I returned the pass on the descent but not because I wanted to get ahead of her.  She just seemed to have worked a little too hard on the up and needed recovery whereas I didn’t work as hard and once over the hill I could open up my pace again. 

As we passed the 6:55 timing mat, I noticed my average pace was 7:32 per mile. I knew that to a negative split, I needed to see that drop by as much as possible in the second half. I felt ready, willing, and able to do that. I was glad I was patient through this point in the race. 

M6-7:51
M7-7:16

The next mile was lovely. It was a super-fast descent that really allowed me to regroup after that climb. It mentally helped me to see my average pace already dropping but it was still early. I had one more climb to go and I thought it was supposed to be steeper and/or longer than what I just did. 

M8-7:03

It was during this mile that I rejoined Gary who looked great but was running his own race.  I was moving well and I was happy he didn’t try to change his race to come with me.   

M-9 7:11

Ok, here we go. The last big climb. I am not even sure how bad this will be. The windy road meant I couldn't see the top of the hill. When I look at my watch data, it shows that the incline was about 18 minutes.  It started at 9.1M and ended at 11.5M but there was a little relief at 10.25 that helped.  

Once I hit 10.25, I was ON. That was my mark to start to pick up my pace and I didn’t care what the course looked like. I would listen to my body to see how fast I could go. I waited for this. I didn’t allow myself to blow up early just so I could do something special at the end and now was my time to try.

M10-7:55 
M11-7:10

Once over the peak of the last hill which was really at 11.5M, I glanced at my pace and was so happy to see sub-7 pace.  The descent was helpful and I was able to recover from the climb while pushing my speed.  But then we turn and start going back up!  It really wasn’t terribly steep but at 6:45 pace it felt like a mountain to me. 

Here is where my form falls apart. 
I am passing people and moving faster than anyone around me. One woman responds and goes with me.  It has been a long time since I felt like someone was able to make a move to go with me when I am negative splitting. This is not because I believe “I am just that good” but rather it is because 99.9% of the runners in recreational races simply do not believe they can negative split so they just go out too hard and have nothing left at the end to respond with. 

For a moment I felt like I was going to be in a footrace to the finish. For a moment I wasn’t sure what would happen. I didn’t have another gear at that time. I used them all up. I was holding a 6:45 pace on an incline and my form was starting to fall apart on me.  Maybe if we hit a decline I could shift again but maybe she could too. The finish line was less than a half-mile away. Could I really race her in for that long? It will be fun to try! 

And then she dropped but I still felt proud of her. I don’t know who she is but she had grit. She didn’t think about what to do when I pulled up next her at 12.5M to go, she just reacted by going with me and fighting back. That is fantastic. I wish I could have shook her hand at the end, but I was having a full blown asthma attach as soon as I stopped moving and was almost ushered into the medical tent. I did not need that. I have my inhaler. Unlike what most people may think, Exercise-induced Asthma attacks are most likely to happen upon stopping the exercise not midway through it. For me as soon I as stop running hard and for several minutes after, I will not be able to get in enough air to breathe properly, but I have my inhaler and I do recover quickly.

A minute or two later, I see Gary finishing strong and later we find our he PR'd again!  Alanna had a great day too running a very solid training run and achieving he goal for the day!

M12-6:45
M13-6:46
Last .1 (or .17 for me) in 1:10 (6:46 pace)

Stats: 
1:36:37 (7:22 pace) and a 2:10 minute negative split.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Atlantic City Marathon, Atlantic City, NJ 10/20/19

This is a two-part race report. The first is about some of my theories and how I practice when it comes to negative splitting a marathon. The second part is a recounting of my race. All of this includes Kim’s race as well because the entire point of racing AC was for both her and me to negative split.  Kim’s negative was a bigger deal than me doing it because it was the first time she decided to try and she was amazing! 

_______________________
Part I: 

I love the marathon because it can feel like magic sometimes. When we run well, it almost feels like a surprise to even ourselves. How did I just run 26.2M at a pace I could not hold for shorter long runs?  

Today Kim and I ran the AC Marathon with the sole purpose of practicing Fast Finish, Negative-Split Marathon pacing. No matter how many times I negative split a marathon, it will never get old and it always feels like a tremendous accomplishment.

But today was special because it was Kim’s day to deliberately attempt a negative split. I tend to not formally coach my friends because dual-relationships often don’t work out well. However, Kim and I have found our way and we trust each other tremendously.  

Negative split training is hard because most people don’t have the ability to run a marathon as a training run due to physical, financial, and other valid reasons. Not everyone is willing or able to register for a marathon and then use it as a skill-building training run, but that is exactly what works and this is what we did. 

The assignment was to take our average pace from the last marathon we ran together at Clarence DeMar 3 weeks ago and average that pace for the first 14 Miles. And then at Mile 14, we needed to get to work, finding a faster but sustainable pace.  We wanted to feel like we were running a 12M race with a 14M warm up. I would run my race and she would run hers but at the end of the day, we both should cross the finish line with respectable time, faster than the last marathon and with the second half much faster than the first. 

This was a training run, not a goal race so the plan was to practice negative-splitting by running slow enough in the first half to ensure that we had more gears to use. And we wanted to still run a respectable time despite holding back early.   

On the ride over we spent some time revisiting some really important concepts.  Weight changes during races, the Cori Cycle, and having the courage and self-confidence to hold back, trusting that we will find the strength the persevere at faster speeds hours later.   

My thoughts and experience about weight changes on race pace.  Years ago, my husband was talking about flying an airplane. He explained how the plane is at its heaviest when the tank is full. It much harder for the plane to move its mass. It is a less efficient machine when the tank is full. But as fuel is burned off, the plane gets lighter and more efficient. It has much less trouble picking up speed.

I think about this when I race. Speed is not related to how much fuel is in my tank, it is related to how light my machine is compared to how strong my engine is. I regularly weigh in before and after my long runs. Even just an hour of running will result in weight loss.  For my long runs, I come home 3-4 lbs lighter even when I drink fluids along the way. 

But it seems many runners start a race thinking this way: “I want to start somewhat hard, while I have the most energy in me and my freshest legs. I want to bank a little time before I hit the wall.”  


These runners then start at a pace that is faster than their goal pace, which is just a little too fast to sustain especially when they are most heavily loaded with glycogen and hydration. To me, it makes little sense to work extra hard while my body is actually in the most inefficient, heaviest, and slowest form it will be in all morning. Instead, I want to start at a pace that is comfortable, that keeps my goal in reach but gives my body time to burn off some fuel/hydration and become a little lighter (and faster).  If my body isn’t beat up by working too hard too soon, I will get to the second half still surprisingly fresh, but now pounds lighter (even when eating and drinking along the way). This is when I want to shift gears and start “racing”. If this goes well, there should be no fade, no wall, and my fastest miles should be at the very end. 

I also explained to Kim how the Cori Cycle worksHow many of us understand that the human body is a glucose recycling center? This little-discussed system is truly magical.  Basically, when glucose is burned for energy, lactate is discharged into the bloodstream as a by-product of the chemical reaction in the cells. When this lactate makes it way back to the liver it is converted back into useable glucose that once again can reach the cells and be burned as energy. 

The accumulation of lactate is regulated by our pace. Faster paces make more lactate.  Lactate is not a problem until we have too much of it. If we work just a little too hard, more lactate accumulates in the blood than can be recycled by the liver and it builds up. This excess of lactate reduces the pH balance of the blood, impacting how well the blood can transport oxygen and negatively impacting muscle contraction.  When this happens, the body’s survival mechanism kicks in and we start to slow down. This slow down in pace allows the liver more time to recycle the overage of lactate. Often when we get back under our lactate threshold, pH balance is restored and we get a second wind. 

Our lactate threshold can be pushed higher with training methods. But racing our best requires us to understand that pushing through the burn is not the smartest thing to do early in a race. We want to do this at the end where overshooting our lactate threshold will be less problematic because once we hit the finish line the race is over and we can walk around while lactate clears. 

If we are very in tune without bodies we can feel the subtle signs that we are starting to accumulate too much lactate. For me, I can feel my legs start to feel heavy and my breathing gets a little bit labored.  One question I ask myself repeatedly as I run is “Can I get faster? Do I have another gear?” If the answer is NO before my “go faster” mark, then I need to slow down because I am at my redline for lactate accumulation. I stop letting my Ego rule me too early.  I need to save that for the end.

Finally, Kim and I talked about how much courage and confidence it takes to PLAN to negative split a race. It is risky, especially when you believe the WALL exists regardless of your pacing. Most simply don’t believe that it is possible for them to get faster in the second half marathon. They think the wall is coming no matter what and they can’t stop it.  Negative split a marathon at a pace you are proud of just once and you will learn that there isn’t a wall for everyone. The less discipline you have, the bigger your wall will be.

Of course, first, we need to be trained to handle the demands of 26.2M of running before we can think about the ways to manipulate pacing over that distance.  Kim was trained to run 26.2 and her recovery was fast. Same for me. 

The best way to build our sense of self-efficacy is to witness someone who we feel is similar to ourselves do something that we didn’t think was possible. When we see it is possible for someone similar to us, we start to believe it is possible for us too.  Once Kim was able to see me run a 14-minute negative split at Clarence DeMar, I knew she would be interest, ready, and willing to try it for herself. Kim and I have different strengths and weaknesses but we know each other and we know there are more similarities between our approach to training, nutrition, life than there are differences. 

Self-confidence is a tough element to control. When it comes to negative splitting a marathon I don’t think anyone is going to feel truly confident until they do it once.  Kim has been my training and racing partner for years.  She has witnessed my success with pacing and knows that I have been able to negative split every single PR race I have ever run in my life. 

The irony is people might imagine that a negative split would feel physically harder than banking time and then letting the body fade, but that can’t be further from the truth.  Instead, for me each time I negative split a marathon, the experience is not painful. It is exhilarating. To err and run myself into the ground for 14 miles first and then try to power on for 12M more doing more and more damage to my already beat up body that just wants to stop moving is so incredibly painful, physically and emotionally. Lactate accumulation can hurt when we have too much. It is a horrible feeling to want to lift your legs but to find you have no ability to do it. However, in contrast, running 14M just under the lactate threshold, taking advantage of the Cori Cycle, recycling glucose, not getting beaten up, just doesn’t hurt. And then when I hit the 12M to go mark, it is my “Go Time”.  The pace I pick when practicing negatives is a pace that is significantly faster than what I just ran, but one that still allows me to hold on to one more faster gear for the end.  Because I am running faster than all those around me, the crowds feed my Ego and inspire me to try harder and run strong.  And because I am moving faster than anyone around me, any competition I reel in will be completely unlikely to respond in kind (because few runners have the skill and ability to negative split).  By the time I finish, my last mile should be one of the fastest and the pain will be minimal.  And there was never a Wall at all.  

Before someone negative splits a marathon for the first time, it is hard to believe it is possible. But after one time, race pacing should never be the same again. To learn you can run for 2+ hours at a respectable pace and then decide to run the last hour+ much faster and then do it changes us. The best way to build this confidence is to set yourself up to succeed by picking a marathon, and running with discipline for the first chunk and then picking a mark in the second half where you will shift gears and turn on the power and just plan to learn about what you can do. Forget about the finish time. Forget about chasing a PR. Just pick a race and deliberately practice mastering this skill and then say goodbye to the wall forever.

__________________________________
Part II

Some of my Race Performance Journal Notes:
Condition/Terrain: The conditions weren’t terrible, but they could have been a little better at the end. It was about 60 degrees at the start and overcast. For my lasts 80 minutes, it rained and the winds kicked up to about 14 mph. When running into this wind along the ocean on the soft, energy-absorbing boardwalk, it was more of a struggle than I hoped it would be.  

One surprise to me was how slow the boards were. I am used to running the boards from Spring Lake to Asbury Park to Long Branch. After Hurricane Sandy, a lot of our boards there are replaced with a hard plastic boardwalk. It is solid and really doesn’t feel much different than running on the roads. But for AC, the boards are old and bouncy and they have way too much give. My pace dropped 10-15 seconds per mile immediately every time I hit the boardwalk segments compared to the road segments. I didn’t expect this much of a difference.  

Shoes/Gear: NB 1400s, Sports Bra (on inside out because I got dressed in the dark ;)  Maybe this is good luck.) Bike shorts by Brooks. Waist Belt by Nathan for gu because shorts did not have pockets.

Health/Wellness Factors: Feeling strong, fit, and ready to execute my negative split plan. Not able to weigh in before and after this run but guessing about 115-117 the morning of the race, which was close to 6 lbs less than I was at Clarence De Mar.  

At some point during the race, I had suffered some type of allergic reaction. I didn’t realize it until after I finished but my eyelids were incredibly swollen and I had an uncontrollable sneezing fit that lasted 25 minutes straight, non-stop sneezing?  It took three days for my eyes to look normal again. I don't know if this impacted me during the run. I didn't notice.

Nutrition:  I do what works for me and ate about 1000 calories MORE than my usual intake spread out over the day before the race (Risotto at Spanos for dinner with my parents). Instead of the 80-100 grams of carbs I usually eat, I ate about 300g of carbs the day before.  The morning of the race and during the race I got about 175g of carbs in me (pumpkin spice donut, gels, Gatorade, and BCAAs). For me, this nutrition plan works like rocket fuel. You don't need to copy me but rather find your own way. I was so well-fueled that energy level was never a problem. I was not ravenous after. I was able to return immediately to my high-protein, lower-carb style of eating. 

Sleep: I slept horribly the night before. Hardly any unbroken sleep. I totaled 5 hours and 43 minutes of broken sleep. This is terrible for me. We stayed at my parents' house and Lapis was not happy.  She was up pacing around at night not sure what to do with herself. It took a while for her to settle down.

Execution of the plan:  Here are my splits … I think it went well considering the last 80 minutes was in the worst weather of the race for me.  



For the first 14 miles, I was so patient. I let everyone go and I reminded myself what my task was for the day. The slower-paced start allows me to work on form. I thought about how my body moved and try to be efficient.  There were moments along the way when I worried about whether or not I would have another gear or two… but when those thoughts were recognized I shook them away and reminded myself to focus on my goal. 

As I got past 10 miles, I wanted to ensure I could shift.  My first 14M pace plan was to sit between 8:20-8:40 pace. When I started to wonder if my last 12 would go well, I made a decision to slow my pace a little to help ensure that it would. 

As soon as I hit 12 to go, I was ready and antsy to start racing. I took the first mile a little too fast but the course was more decline here and I felt amazing.  I was hoping to hold a pace under 8:00 and ideally around 7:40 for the last 12.2M but the weather turned and it just added a little more difficult than I expected. I was happy working to just stay under 8:00.

I wish I knew what place I was in when I hit 12 to go.  I wish I counted how many people I passed on the way in. There was one guy at the end that was moving better than me but I passed a massive number of runners as if they were standing still. Not one female could go with me and I knew it. 

As the rain came down and the wind picked up, I reached the boards again. There is no shelter there. Just a straight run along the ocean for miles. I passed a younger female runner who tucked in tight directly behind a guy (boyfriend maybe) who was clearly there to help her.  He was shielding her from the elements.  We had 2 miles to go.  He looked back and saw me coming. I could tell he wanted to try to hold me off. He said something to her to encourage her. They picked the pace up together, her so close to him that she couldn’t even see the ground in front of her own feet. As I blew past them, I wanted to say “It must be nice to have a helper but you don’t need him” but I decided that was not necessary and it didn’t matter, they couldn’t stop me or even go with me. This could have been her first marathon and maybe she just didn’t believe in herself yet. She was doing really well. Some day this girl is going to want to know what it feels like to run strong without anyone to aid her. 

I wanted to kick with 2-3 miles to go but the wind was making every step work. I was still moving well and decided to wait until the 25M mark to make my final push. 

I was able to get my pace down to 7:11 for the last .35 miles and that felt amazing.  

When I checked the result I was incredibly happy to see I managed a 3:35 and was 10th place female!  When I look at my last half, I managed a 7-minute negative split and felt such a huge sense of accomplishment. 

I waited a few minutes for Kim to come through, hoping she did well.  At 4:01, she came sprinting over the finish line, having managed to run a 10-minute negative split herself with her last mile her fastest!  



My Stats: 











 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Clarence DeMar, 9/29/19, The Battle between Goal Orientations (Ego vs Task) and How to Negative Split a Marathon.




As Kim and I walked to the starting line, I am having a mini-mental crisis because with 8 minutes to go I FINALLY decide to think about my actual game plan.

All week I have been jokingly texting Kim about how I am going to win the race and sending her photos of my Garmin’s predictions for me: “You are peaking!” it told me. “Estimated marathon time 3:15” it proclaimed.  Now that’s funny.

I mutter “Ego vs Task… Ego vs Task”  Kim askes me what the heck am I mumbling. 


“I am in a crisis!” I tell her and I don’t know what to do. If only I knew a Coach who could help me!”

This is my last race before my next surgery (4th surgery now for my GI issues) and I have no idea what will happen once I go under. I am afraid of a setback. I have been feeling good lately but I am not healed. I want to walk away from this race feeling good about my run. This could be the last marathon I run for a while and I want to be happy to be here. 

I explain, “Part of me wants to go out and run 7:50 pace from the gun. I feel like I can run 7:50 pace but I don’t know for how long. Maybe I just need to see how far I go before I blow up? Maybe I hold on?  Maybe I want a chance to shine before I need to stop racing again for however long that is?”

I go on…“The other part of me knows that just ran Sandia Crest Marathon with an 8:45 pace. I have no business going out at 7:50 pace, regardless of what my heart wants. And DeMar is not a goal race. Why do I think I can go out hold sub-8 the whole way? What have I done lately to support that plan? Nothing at all! So I know the plan should be to start about 8:40 pace (just a little faster than my last marathon pace) and try to negative split this thing and finish feeling strong. I should be aiming for an 8:30 per mile average pace. That is what I should be doing!  I should be working on the TASK of pace management and Negative Split Execution right now not dreaming about racing fast, winning anything, getting a BQ, or trying to run like I have actually trained to run a fast marathon.”

Ok, it is settled, seconds before the gun goes Kim an I agree it would be fun to run together again until we decide we need to do our own thing. I remind her that there is a hill around the 14M mark and once I get over that hill if I can pick up the pace that is where I want to start to make a move to negative split. 

I knew the first half would not go smoothly because I still needed to use a bathroom and I just couldn’t get my body to cooperate pre-race.  This better not become a thing.  I never had this issue before.  I can’t stop in the middle of a goal race.  Fortunately, this is not a goal race.

I read my race report last night from the last time I ran Clarence De Mar. It was a glorious experience for me and I have been wanting to get back here ever since.  

Kim and I take off, there is a nice downhill start and we are moving well, faster than 8:40 pace but it is fine, we use the descent and then settle into goal pace as the miles unfold and the terrain rolls. 

The course is net descent but there are hills throughout.

M1 8:24
M2 8:53
M3 8:39
M4 8:41


By Mile 4 I realize I need a bathroom and there are none around. By Mile 7 we start asking people where the next bathrooms would be and are told 1.5M by everyone, for at least 3 miles. ;)  

M5 8:54
M6 8:48
M7 8:49
M8 8:48
M9 8:42

Finally, at Mile 10 we found two. We pick up our pace to get there, knowing we will wait for others to get out. We are as quick as possible but loose about 2 minutes. I feel good enough to finally take my second gel.

M10 8:22
M11 10:45


Over the dam, we go. There is wind. It adds work. It is noticiable. I was hoping for some beautiful fall foliage but the weather has been warm and the trees just barely started to turn. It was still a lovely view.

M12 9:01
M13 9:16

After fighting the wind, Kim says that she wants to slow a little to get her legs back. She is smart. Trying to run even just a few seconds per mile too fast to stick with a friend can destroy the experience. Slowing down, taking a gel, regrouping and getting into the right pace is best. This is TASK-oriented work.  Ego-oriented thinking would have had Kim trying to stick with me even when she knew she wanted to slow down just a little.

The best work we do happens when we are Task-Mastery Focused (i.e. know your specific and personalized job and do only that job regardless of what anyone else around is doing) AND Ego-Focused (having a desire to beat the norm… BUT at the right time). 

I repeat, there is nothing wrong with Ego-Focused work, but it has to be well-timed. We are racing.  Racing is primarily an Ego-Focused activity. This is ok. 

But if we become Ego-Focused too early in a race, we will fail to master our task and that is a recipe for a bad experience.  I believe that Task-Focus pacing should dominate the first 2/3 - 3/4 of a race. The Task-Goal should be set based upon what you have done lately so that the goal is realistic and achievable. Set a task that is too hard and it is really just an Ego-goal in disguise. Set a realistic Task-Goal and this should allow you to shift to Ego-Focused racing in the last chunk of the race and blowing up no longer becomes a threat. 

With the bathroom stop, by the time we got to 12 miles we were averaging about 8:56 pace.  I tell Kim that I can feel that gel I took kicking in and I want to try to push myself. The hill I thought was as 14-15 was really at 12-13 and I just want to power over it. The pace so far was perfect. I felt really strong and I knew I had another gear.  We stay goodbye and I pick it up. 

M14 8:30

I hit the half marathon mark on the course at 1:58:xx.  I realize this is close to a 4:00 hour marathon if I don’t fade but I was hoping for something sub-3:49 (to beat my last marathon time from two weeks ago).  I actually did want to try to go sub-3:40 but with a 2 hour first half, I would have to run a 1:39-1:40 to get that. That was not realistic. I wasn’t even sure I could run a 1:40 half right on its own now outright.  

At this point, I start to run by feel and push myself just hard enough to find something that felt sustainable but strong. I felt like I just ran a 13-mile warm-up and now I was about to race!

My legs feel fresh. I look at my watch and my pace is 7:48!  This felt like 8:30 if I had to guess. It felt sustainable. I think back to the start of the race when I said “I think I can run 7:50s… I just don’t think I can do it the whole way”  Now here I am at mile 15 running 7:48 pace and I tell myself “Well, you don’t need to run 7:50s the whole way, but can you do it for the second half?.”… I am sure as hell gonna try” I reply to myself.

It has been a long time since I felt this good in a race. I was clicking off 7:40-8:00s like I did this all the time. Honestly, I did not run one non-stop run during training over the last 12 weeks and I did a lot of run/walking during the second half of the Sandia Crest marathon after I blew through the first half there in a 1:45:xx.

But here at Clarence DeMar, I felt alive! I felt strong, I felt competent. I felt like I was flying! When you are running 7:50s around people running 9:00s, 10:00s, 11:00s, it makes you feel like you are sprinting.

M15 7:48
M16 7:43
M17 8:04
M18 7:39

At about 19 miles in, I see a sight that says “I love running… I Love Running… I LOVE RUNNING!” I think “I actually DO Love running. God, how I missed this!” I remind myself to smile. This is awesome.

M19 8:08
M20 7:58
M21 7:53
M22 7:47
 

Mile 23-24, in part, roll though the cemetery. They are hard miles. The hills are steep late in the race. My form breaks for the first time. This bothers me. I don’t want to unravel. HOLD IT TOGETHER!  But still, I am passing ladies who look fit but they are power walking. I am shifting to EGO-Focused now. I am starting to look at my competition and aiming to beat them. From here on I am now working on reeling in my competition. I refuse to stop running when the hill keeps going up. I dig in my with my arms to try to create some momentum. It helps.  

Once back downhill, I can breathe. I regain my confidence. I smile again. I make jokes with these nearby. I am having fun!  I needed this.

M23 8:11
M24 8:07

I know my BQ as a 40-44-year-old woman is 3:40. I can’t believe it but I am going to be close to that, much closer than I expected after a 1:58:xx first half.  If I could really push hard and stay sub-8:00, I might get a sub-3:40 and BQ! What a great second half! 

But then I see that my watch is reading almost .2M long so my marathon will be 26.4 by the time I am done and that will make it impossible to go sub-3:40. 

I remember my mental break down at the start. Ego vs Task. I need to stop focusing on the BQ, which is not what I came here to do and it is not realistic. 

What is my job? What is my task? My job today was to run strong, to run a negative split, to not fade, to finish strong, and to walk off this course feeling like marathon runner again before I have my next surgery which may prevent me from doing this again for a long time.

The last few miles start to feel like work, as they should.  They are not overwhelming me. I am still passing runners. Runners are getting slower. I overtake them. I feel faster than I should because of it. I use that energy to keep me moving.

M25 7:52

The last turn brings us to 26M and it is there I start to feel like I can’t hold the sub-8 much longer… but we have only tenths left.  I push for whatever I have left coming through the finish line. 

M26 7:54
Last .2 (.38 on my watch) at 8:15 pace (finally starting to hit the wall ;) ) 

I hear my name announced. I can’t believe I am done!  3:42:40. (8:30 pace!) I missed my BQ by just over 2 minutes. Damn bathroom break! ;) Oh well, that was not the goal. My goal was to negative split and that is what I did. A 14+ minutes negative split!  I ran my second half more than 1 minute per mile faster than the first half. I felt amazing both inside and out. 


As I walked to get my drop bag I realized “OMG, I am not trying to BQ for 2020. I am trying to BQ for 2021 and I will be 45 on race day in 2021…. my BQ now is 3:50!  So technically I BQ'ed at Sandia Crest for 2021 by seconds only…  But here at Clarence De Mar, I managed 7+ minute BQ which secures my spot! I also qualified for Chicago too. Maybe 2021 should be a year of World Majors ;) 

I wonder how Kim is doing. I get my answer soon as I watch Kim fly in through the finish pushing herself to a solid 4:09 marathon as a long run! She looks so happy. She had her own ups and downs out there but she held it together. She overcame obstacles. She did NOT unravel. She faded a little but not really by much and she finished strong. 

What a great day. I missed the marathon so much.  It is a battle of physical and mental challenges. Nutrition and Hydration Challenges. Pace strategy challenges. Ego vs Task.

For me: Next up on Oct 4th is another ACell procedure. But this time I am going into this surgery in the best shape I have been in since this started.  I am ready for a recovery PR and I want to get back to running marathons as soon as possible. 


8:30 average pace. I did my JOB. :) 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Sandia Crest Marathon (9/14/19, Albuquerque, NM), Another Surgery, and Doing Hard Things.

Do easy things and life will seem hard. 
Do hard things and life will seem easy.

I want to do hard things. I want to persevere. I need to endure.  I am not done yet.  I am a marathoner. This is not over! 

My Health Update: 
On September 9th, I had an MRI to determine when my next repair surgery would be. I had been feeling a lot better but I knew was still not completely healed. The next day, my surgeon called to tell me good news! The main infected tracts responded favorably to the ACell regenerative matrix treat and my body was actually healing itself! HOLY CRAP this magical regenerative medicine is working. My body is fixing itself! I had no active infection, no fluid accumulation, and what remains of the tracts has been narrowed down to just slivers.

I have another surgery scheduled for October 4th. Hopefully, if we apply one more round of ACell to what remains of the tracts I can possibly be healed and move on with my life. Fingers crossed.

But here is the thing, over the past 6 weeks or so, I have regained control over my life despite my illness. It doesn’t matter what is wrong now. I have found a way to manage my symptoms so that I can get back to training and work around my obstacles.  I am a long-distance runner and I need to run

Well before this good news, I decided back in June to register for a marathon. I love the mountains and found a race in New Mexico, The Sandia Crest Marathon. It had a generous deferral policy. I have a very good friend who lives out next to the mountain so even if I couldn’t race I was still going to travel out to NM to hike up to 10,000-13,000 feet. I love being up high. 

_____________________


My Training: Three Key Workouts, Using What I Had, Training Deliberately.

It has been a long time since I raced. Once I recovered from surgery and started moving again, I only had 10 solid weeks to train. This is such a ridiculously short time. I can’t even argue that I had a strong base to work from because I did not. I had shut down my training in March after my second surgery and first ACell attempt. I gained 10-15 lbs of extra weight (107 lb was my best racing weight and I was up to 131lbs the week after my last surgery. I am happy racing at 117 or less. I was carrying at least 10 lbs of bona fide extra mass that wasn’t going to help me train or race well.

Knowing I had 10 weeks to get fit enough to endure a marathon, I decided to focus on three key workouts.

(1) Long Runs.  Building from 0-24 miles using a run /walk method starting with 0.15 Run/0.1M walk ratio. Each time I went out to run a long run, I would increase my Run distance by .1M or .15M and keep the walk at .1M.

My long run route was not beautiful. I had to deal with narrow roads, busy intersections, annoyed drivers leaving the MVC all before hit Mile 1 at the Prison and Sex Offender treatment unit. Mile 2 took me under a dirty disgusting bridge, with broken glass, sometimes stray needles, and dead pigeons. I ran past construction sites and down a path behind houses along a river where teenagers loitered to smoke pot. Mile 3 took me through a local park where I had access to water and bathrooms but also grown people who sometimes had trouble behaving themselves. The comments and catcalls get old fast. Mile 4-6 had me navigating narrow shoulders and bad drivers in too much of a hurry. Finally by M7 and beyond I had some peace in a nicer area with bathrooms and water fountains and long traffic-free running paths. At mile 10, I had to turn back and do it all again to get back home.

Week after week, I had to force myself out the door to make this journey to save my soul. I never felt unsafe, but I missed running in the lovely parks of Monmouth county where I could see wildlife that was still alive, smell the clean air, and not get verbally harassed by teenagers or adults who seem to have no idea what it looks like to witness someone doing hard things.

By the end of my training, I was able to run beyond 1 mile non-stop before walking for .1M to recover. My pace was just under 12:00 pace at the start and ended at 9:29 pace for my fastest run/walk long run of 24 miles, which was not actually the last long run I did. I struggled with these runs because most were done late in the day in the summer. I worked hard to make the long runs the focus, increasing my distance at least once but often twice in a week so that I would have the chance to get to 24M with some time to rest. I actually made it 24 miles ahead of schedule and hoped to repeat 24M or even get to 26M at leasts once before I took a week of rest, but I just couldn’t hold on. I managed a second 22M and then a 21M after the 24M, but the last two long runs were much slower than my 24M and I felt like I was just done “cooking” by that time. I was tired.

(2) “Speed work. At least once per week, I worked on trying to get my turnover back and I wanted my legs to get used to the pounding of faster paced running. For this workout, I still used the run/walk method, but the runs were all .45M and walks were 0.5M. The run pace was mid-to-low 8:00 pace with some sub-8 bursts when weather was cooler and I felt strong. These runs were about 8Ms long and by the end, I was able to get one total workout to average sub-9 pace. That was as fast as I could go.

(3) Hills. I used to travel a half-hour to Holmdel Park to run steep repeats of the bowl but with my condition requiring me to say close to home (to deal with the dressing changes and because I did not want to spend any extra time in sweaty clothes with open wounds) I had to find a hill close by. I live at maybe 85 ft elevation. There are no hills here.

The best I could do was a neighbored hill that climbed 46 ft in .15M. I used an "up-over a block-down- turn around and go back up-over a block-down" route to cover .7M with two .15M ups and .15M downs. The grade was about 4.9-5.5%. This is not very steep, but it is not flat either.

The best hill work I did was a 10M run with 7M of hill repeats. I needed to work hard on the downhills so my toes, shins, legs could get used to the pounding descent. But I knew this could never adequately prepare me for 4000 feet of descent down a mountain.

In addition to these runs, I did easy runs with Sidney at whatever pace he wanted  (also run/walk) and I walked the dogs as much as I could. I focused on getting as many steps per day as possible and in August I was very close to 800,000 total steps in the month. 

I did not do one single non-stop run in 10 weeks time and I was about to go try to run a marathon. lol ;) 

As a result of my training, I had lost 8 lbs, got my resting hard rate down to 44 bpm, and felt like I had done as much as I could do in the time I had available. I did not do any lifting, or yoga, or jump rope, but I did what I could. I was ready to give racing a marathon a shot.
_____________

The Race: 




I picked Sandia Crest Marathon because I love the mountains. This race was net descent but if you read the review you will see it is not easy. There are mile-long climbs at altitude that are hard for anyone, especially a runner from sea level. The hours of steep downhill pounding will add up and make it hard for the quads to persevere. The dry air is incredibly dehydrating (and just before I left for my trip, my molar cracked and exposed the root making it really hard for me to drink cold fluids with out shooting pain to my brain. Cups of ice water seems like a great idea when temperatures rose, but I just couldn’t handle the pain from the ice-cold fluids hitting a nerve so I know I drank less than I should.

I loved staring at sun rise on a 10,000 foot high mountain top. But I was a little concerned. This would be the time I have run first thing in the morning since maybe January 2018? I have been up and walking dogs first thing in the morning for months, then doing afternoon or evening training most of the time.

The first mile was blazing fast. The descent was no joke. I managed a sub-7 minute pace for mile 1 and can’t remember running that fast since May 2018 at a race. I tried to settle down but gravity made it more jarring to my quads to hit the breaks than it did to just go with the flow.

As I floated along I felt amazing. I could see myself running a fast time, surprising myself. My expectations were to try to beat 4:15, but if I found that I could actually go for a BQ I wanted it! I did not really believe the 3:39 was possible until right now in this race. Suddenly I could really see it happening. I remember running sub-3’s and how smooth I felt. I felt just like this. Oh wow, I am gong to FLY through this race!

Running a mile uphill at about 8500 feet is demoralizing. I am incredibly proud to have been able to maintain a running stride for that entire mile. I didn’t lose as much time as I expected but I am pretty sure I may have taken a few years off my life trying to hold on. Oxygen debt is no joke. At this point, I wasn’t even sure if I could finish the race. BQ! Ha! Who was that delusional idiot back there at mile 3? Success at this point would be measured by me finding that ability to take a full breath of air that actually circulated some oxygen to my extremities. Oh wow did I feel so unprepared for a marathon! Ok, back to reality… the goal once again is to just finish this thing!

Soon we started to go back down. I regained coherence and I got more pep in my step. These next 3 miles were fantastic. I knew I had a smooth ride ahead of me until about the 12M mark.

This course was fast through 12M and then the hard stuff would happen (expect big and rolling hills throughout the second half as the temperature rose and shade decreased). I expected a faster first half than the second half. Mission Accomplished ;)

But by mile 7, I had started to feel my stomach rebelling a bit. I needed to use a port-o-potty but I didn’t want to stop. I was so proud to have run the furthest non-stop run since maybe January? But I did not have an option. And there was a line. It is really hard to wait on line during a race. I lost a least a minute waiting but the rest break surely helped.

Once I started running again I was still holding around an 8:00 average pace and was shocked by this. I really did not think this was truly possible. 

The next hurdle came at mile 12, just before a huge hill that was about 1 mile long. I had to stop again. A runners just one stride before me jumped into the port-o-potty and took literally 3 minutes in there. I know this. I timed him while cursing and pacing. I knew at this point the chance of me BQing was diminishing greatly despite me still technically being ahead of BQ pace. The 12-mile hill was a beast and I knew it was getting hotter and hillier as I traveled along. I expected to fade a lot in the second half, which I did.

From this point forward, I returned to my run/walk training, walking up the steep hills and running anything I could run. It was getting harder to run because my quads were not prepared for hours of the steep descent. I did no jump rope this training cycle. My “hill” was barely a hill. My quads were in shock and my toes were disowning me.

By Mile 21, I watch my pace fade to slower than BQ pace and for a moment I felt disappointed in myself. Had I BQ’d it would have been on the very last day to possible do it and it would have the potential to qualify me for 2 years of Boston. It would have been a raging success to go from such a low point in my health to achieving something so amazing… and I watched it slip away.

But shortly thereafter I had some clarity. I REFUSED to let my inability to achieve a REACH Goal take away the joy I should feel from doing exactly what I was doing, which was running a marathon after almost a year of debilitation health problems off of 10 weeks of prep and I was going to come in well under 4 hours! This is a victory and if I let this feel like a failure then shame on me for not knowing how to set realistic goals for myself. I should know better and it is what I do.

So I shifted and started repeating the mantra I have been using throughout my training. “You are exactly where you are supposed to be. It doesn’t matter where you have been or where you want to go. Right now You Are Exactly Where You Are Supposed To Be” and then I start looking around my world for object and I repeat “Right now you are supposed to be right here, right next to this telephone pole…. Right now you are supposed to be right here, right at this intersection… Right now you are supposed to here, Right at this water stop with the lady where sunglasses shaped like popsicles…. Right now you are supposed to be here, power walking up this mile-long hill at mile 24 and nowhere else.”

This helped me tremendously. I was doing something amazing and I almost missed the joy of it because I about to feel bad about not qualifying for some other race that won’t happen for months. I refuse to distract myself from experiencing joy just to allow myself to feel bad about something else that was not happening. That is crap and I refused to allow myself to feel bad while doing something well.

I decided that since the BQ was out and my body was very tired that I would make sure that I enjoyed the remainder of the race. I worked hard, power walked when I felt I needed to, and enjoyed the emotional ride to the finish line with no pressure to do anything but have fun!

After all, I was running a MARATHON!  A hard marathon. And this is where I belong!

I am so proud of my effort. I felt like myself again, even when it all unraveled for me in the second half. :)

___________________

Do easy things and life will seem hard. 
Do hard things and life will seem easy.
Expand your comfort zone. 
Persevere. 
Endure.
Appreciate the Moment.

Stats
Time: 3:49.16
OA Place: 39
Gender: 12th
Age 3rd

Sunday, July 28, 2019

7/28/19 Update: Enzo is my Co-pilot. Another Surgery in the future. Never Give Up.

I have been quiet here. I believe that "If you don't have anything good to say, then maybe it's best to say nothing at all."

I have been having some very hard heartbreaking experiences. I am never ever looking for people to feel sorry for me, so I didn't feel posting about all the sadness while I grieved and adapted was necessary.

I am ready to update my blog now.  After all, this is a journal of my life... so here it is.

My Enzo.
The hardest thing that has happened to me since my last post was that Enzo died in my arms while Sidney cradled his face and stroked his head and I will never be the same. We had to put him down because what the vets thought was a spinal stroke or a slipped disc appeared to be a terribly aggressive form of cancer called a Hemangiosarcoma.

By the end of April, Enzo was able to trot again up to a 1/2 mile non-stop at a time. This was amazing progress. He was fighting back! I was getting more hopeful that he was healing.  His stride wasn't great so I bought him a sneaker to protect his toenails from dragging.  He was happy.  I was happy.

It had been months of caring for him when he was completely immobilized and now he could go 1/2 mile on his own. This was a huge improvement in quality of life. But then he had a setback and started to look more uncomfortable. A setback, we were told, meant that it was not a spinal stroke. It was most likely a slipped disc and he could possibly get this fixed. His cardiologist cleared him to have spinal surgery. He was scheduled for an MRI and surgery in early May. But instead of spending an overnight in the hospital, he was kept for 4 days while a team of vets ran a series of test trying to figure out why his symptoms made no sense to them.  Why could he walk sometimes? Why did he have a feeling when he should not.  They found a mass and said they could possibly get to it and remove it. We asked them to please try. But when they operated they discovered he had no mass at all. He has the remains of a hemorrhage but they could not figure out where it came from.  They did see another mass that they could not reach unless they broke his pelvis, which was not happening. They could not even reach it to biopsy it.  However based upon what they did not, they suspected only one problem, a type of highly aggressive and untreatable cancer that ofter results in hemorrhaging called Hemangiosarcoma.  The fact that he hemorrhaged and did not die at that time is a testament to Enzo's Strength and Will to fight through anything.

After the operation, we brought Enzo home and we were told that we could wait a few weeks and then put him through more exploratory surgeries to see if they could get a conclusive diagnosis by trying to biopsy the mass they could not reach during surgery by going in a different way.  If it was Hemangiosarcoma, at this stage there would be no cure. Chemotherapy could be a possible option but it would not heal him if it did anything at all. However, Chemo was not an option because they did not have a conclusive diagnosis. But because the mass was inoperable, we could expect him to experience increasing pain and a potential hemorrhage again at any time.

We took him home and loved him more than I thought I could ever possibly love anyone or anything in my entire life for only a few days. 

And then my heart exploded when it was time to say goodbye. Once the pain medication stopped keeping Enzo comfortable and happy, we knew we had to let him go on May 11th.

Holding him in my arms while we said goodbye was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I will never be the same.  The reality is we had only a few days with him from his cancer diagnosis to the end of his life and it was simply not enough time to process anything.  What made it so much worse for us was that we sent him to the vet with very high hopes that spinal surgery would help him, only to find out that things were much much worse and incredibly aggressive. 

Yet through it all, my boy Enzo never showed us that he was fighting for his life. He improved. He was trotting up to 1/2 mile the week before. He was happy and he loved his life. He fought so hard. He is my inspiration.  He will always be.

I shared this post on FB that felt like a Funeral for Enzo on 5/12 here.  This helped me.

Since Enzo's passing, he is still everywhere. An old man walks past our house now.  We stopped to talk with him one day when he ran up to see our dogs saying "I just want to say Hi to the dogs!" Then he introduced himself "My name is Enzo," he said.  We see him now almost every day.

The book "The Art of Racing in the Rain" has been turned in to a movie. This is a story about a dog's recounting of his life with his person on his last day. The dog's name is Enzo. When I first met Enzo, I was listening to the audiobook and named him after this very dog. The trailer for this movie runs repeatedly, breaking my heart each and every time. 

Not everyone will share an incredibly special bond with their dog, although I would guess most people truly do. Dogs make sure of this. They are the best creatures on this planet. And every once in a while there is a really special dog that changes your world and Enzo did that for me. I am so blessed to have loved him. 


My Health:
Since my last post, I had another ACell Regenerative Medicine application to the open fistula tracts in my lower GI.  For those following this post because they have a fistula and are terrified please know that I have a very high, complex, horseshoe-shaped, trans-sphincteric multiple tract fistula infection.  I am not sure if it gets much more challenging than this. Hopefully, yours is not as complex.

During my last surgery, the surgeon has said if he could actually reach where my abscess was located, he would try to repair me from the inside with what is called a Flap surgery.

When I woke up from surgery, I had learned that my abscess is so deep (high) that he could not reach it to fix it internally. While exploring, he also discovered the tract had branched out, spreading to make a new infected tract that needed to be closed as well. It is not a great sign that he could not reach the abscess site to close it.

He had to make a very large opening in my butt cheek (maybe the size of a half-dollar) and had to use the existing fistula track apply the ACell matrix.  He cannot cut me or I will lose bowel control for life. This surgery has not been comfortable, but I am very proud of how I have been managing.

At one point during a run with Sidney, he turned to me and said "You are the strongest sick person I have ever met" and that, right there, was the best thing anyone has ever said to me. We aren't weak OR strong... we can be both. I am both right now. 

After my surgery, I could not move for 5 days. I needed to take the prescription pain meds to tolerate the early days. I took 10 days to rest and then I was back at work. The truth is I really need another week before I really felt well enough to deal with driving, sitting, working, etc without pain meds.  I was in a lot of discomfort for 17 days but then I felt better.

I saw my surgeon on 7/22 and he confirmed what I already knew, the fistula tracts are not fully healed. The ACell did not work, at least not by 7/22.  He said to give it 3 more weeks to see what happens (but truly if it was going to work, it should have work quickly).  Then we will move on to another MRI and try to assess what surgery I can have next.  I already know he can't reach the internal gland that abscessed.  I don't know what else he can try to do for me, but with every more complicated surgery comes increased risk that I will be in a colostomy bag so we are taking things slow.

He did say I am not infected at this time and my surgical site looks like it is healing well.  He told me to live my life and if I suddenly have signs of a new infection to call him right away. Because my version of this condition is very complicated, too deep to reach, and has multiple branches, at any time I can become infected and possibly septic again.  If I have a fever or pain, I need to stop everything and get treatment. If I have no symptoms I can do what I want, including running as long as I can tolerate it. 

Marathon Training, Running for Enzo... Running WITH Enzo still: 
I have decided that "waiting until I am better" is not working for me anymore.  This illness began in October.  I waited for months, losing almost everything I love about my life during that time.  I am not going to do that anymore.

So over the last month, I have begun training again. If I had to pick one workout to help me get faster and to build endurance as quickly as possible, it is the "Run/Walk."  I still have a large opening from my surgery.  Initially, I was packing that wound with antibiotics covered cotton then covering with a plastic adhesive covering with a gauze pad.  With that in place, I could run as far as I could tolerate.  Right now I don't need to pack the wound anymore. I can just cover it with gauze and plastic adhesive and go on my way.

I am now up to 14-mile long runs and my fastest and most recent 12-mile run was at 9:25 pace walking .10M each mile. I am getting stronger. I am getting faster.  I am not giving up. 

I have a Long Run playlist. Somehow the song "Fix You" by Coldplay ended up saved to my Long Run playlist. "Fix You" was the song I played 2-3 times per day when I did PT exercises with Enzo to try to help him heal his spinal injury (when we thought it was just that). With my playlist on shuffle, "Fix You" will randomly play.  The last few times it came on just as I reached the park where Enzo and I trained most often.  I can't help but feel like Enzo is now trying to fix me.  I can believe anything I want to believe. I choose this.

I can't explain how much I miss having his leash tethered to my wrist when I run. I walk Lapis and Piper with a waist belt.  No one is tethered to my wrist anymore.  Enzo was always a crazy dog and not the type that could be off-leash ever. He just wanted to run. He wanted to run fast and he wanted to run far. He didn't give a crap about what anyone else thought he should do. He was his own boss. That is what you get from living on the street for who knows how long.  He had a lot of issues, but he was happiest when he ran.  He had the ability to run over 50 miles per week with me and could have done more if I didn't get tired.

So now I well enough right now to train again. And I am not just doing this for me. I am carrying my boy Enzo with me in my heart wherever I go. I am letting him do what he always loved to do. 

If I make it through this cycle of marathon training, it is only because of Enzo. I run for him now. I refuse to sit back and wait when I can be out there Fighting like Enzo did every day.  Enzo is the inspiration for everything that happens to me now in my life. Where I go, he goes and I want to take him everywhere. 

Enzo is my Co-pilot. 
He is my inspiration. 
He never gave up. 
I can't either. 
Not now. 

#EnzoIsMyCoPilot, #CreatingMomentum!, #NeverGiveUp