So Close….SO. CLOSE.

Last week, my husband was out of the state on business and I was holding down the fort on my own Monday thru Friday. Fortunately, there are a couple of days in the week where all 3 of my offspring are at school and I used those days to squeeze in my running. While I was still having the occasional coughing fit from the cold I recently fought with, I needed to lace up and run.

Tuesday, I headed out right after dropping the little ones off at school. My toe was a little stiff, so it took me awhile to warm up. Once I was almost 2 miles in, I was running some of my fastest splits of recent. It was fun and I was glad to get out and do it. Thursday, I put off running most of the day because I thought it was going to rain and I like making excuses when I’m tired. After I’d eaten lunch, I decided that I needed to get in a run since a 5k was on the calendar for the weekend and I’d been poorly training since the half marathon at the start of April. I had a great time running. It felt incredible just to get out and do it. I don’t remember how fast I went without checking my ‘connect’, but that doesn’t matter. The run felt good and I felt good after.

Saturday morning, my husband and I enlisted the help of the teen to watch the younger kids and we headed out to the local baseball diamond for the race. It was chilly out, but I stuck to my guns on wearing capri pants and a short sleeved top. I wore a windbreaker on top for comfort in waiting for race time, but I had it off before going to the starting point.

This race was more about the cause than anything else. A young man in our community was killed in a collision by a drunk driver despite him being in a vehicle with a designated driver. The drunk driver was speeding in excess of 100 miles an hour and was not on an interstate. There was an emotional ceremony before the race, then we were walking over to the start.

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Race shirt. Strike out Drunk Driving.

Somehow, I wound up in the front of the pack in the line and I decided to just stay there. My husband had been fighting off the cough and congestion, so he decided to run with me since he wasn’t in ‘race day’ shape to go his usual [much faster] pace. We started on an incline. As I glanced down at my watch, I saw I was going a little fast for my average pace. I analyzed that I wasn’t too uncomfortable to continue, so I went awhile at that pace. I knew in order to beat my 29 minute St. Patrick’s 5k, I needed to stay near the 9 minute mark per mile for the majority of the race. My first mile was 9:02 on my watch. The person calling the time was a little further down the line from where my watch beeped for a mile and he called out 9:30 as I passed. Oh shit. I’ve got to pick it up to get on this. I can only average 9:15 at the worst to get it. Second mile, panting, whining to my husband “I don’t think I can sustain this speed for the rest of the race,” but somehow putting one foot in front of the other and thinking about how badly I wanted to kick my own PR (personal record) in the butt. I pull the second mile in 9:22 due to some very nice downhill time, I think. We get to a spot where we’re running on the trail and the people ahead are already on the way back to the baseball diamond. I see a water fountain and I wish I could stop, but I just couldn’t make myself pull to the side. I tell my husband, “I might puke. I’m going to throw up.” He shakes it off, tells me to keep pushing and that I can puke when I get to home plate, which is also where the finish line is. Our local police chief passes us on the trail and I giggle and tell my husband, “you just got passed by the chief,” and I see him slightly turn his head and I realize, “oh, so did I.” We run through the trail and my watch beeps for another mile, 9:22. I say, “shit, shit, shit….” aloud because I know that wasn’t on target. Excuse my potty mouth, the filter in my brain fell out on the course somewhere. That is not unusual. So we get into the gate and the course is in the gravel on the outfield until we reach the 3rd baseline, where we are to run it home to the finish from 3rd. I see the time and even though its already past 29 minutes, I pull the last bit of energy out of my legs and cross the finish line at 29:10. I stopped my watch and it said “Best 5k 28:43.” So my watch says I beat my best time by over 15 seconds, but my official time doesn’t. I’m fine with that. Now I know I can do it and I’ll have more opportunities to do it. I also was 9th for my age group, so I pulled a top 10. Also, I ran with my husband in a race. It was so sweet and he was really good at encouraging me the whole time when I was hyper focused on getting a PR because of the half marathon race I had in Springfield.

 

 

May 7th, I have a 12k race. I have no PR for that because I haven’t done that distance. I’m doing it primarily because it sounded like a good time. My next 5k is June 4th. The Superhero Dash was my first 5k race and I run it because of the cause and now because its a yearly tradition since 2014. I’m also already signed up for a 15k in June and another half marathon in October. So, good luck to you on all of your upcoming races and your goals! Please feel free to drop me a comment or share this with your friends. I hope you find encouragement in my posts!

 

Did I Say Never?

The term “never say never” could apply to so many things for me. I mean, before I started running I thought I’d never run for fun or even consider it unless I was being chased. When I ran the half marathon in the first weekend of April, I swore I’d never run another half marathon and probably wasn’t going to try anything further at any point. When I was sick a couple of weeks before that, I said that I “never get sick.”

I have had one hell of a time with my energy after recovering from an illness that went on nearly two weeks, followed by a 10k race and a taper week before the half marathon race. The first week after the half marathon race, I went on a 4 mile speed workout on Tuesday evening. My energy was quickly spent causing me to struggle in the last mile more than I normally would. I have been doing a squat challenge in addition to continuing running, and I was feeling sore the entire week. Saturday morning, I intended to run 8 miles when I first got up in the morning. After working with my group training for a 5k race, I realized I wasn’t in it for too much distance. I was fortunate to find someone to run 5 miles with. They were unfortunate enough to have me to run with . My body was tired, I got a side cramp and had to walk it out. I got too warm and had to stop to pull off a layer because the way I’d dressed was good for run/walk intervals, but not for a distance run. I was surprised at how a week after running 13.1 miles, I was struggling to get myself to finish 5, and I didn’t finish it without a few bumps in the road. By Sunday, I was sore everywhere. While I’d planned to restart my running streak because Saturday was day 100 of the year, I knew I couldn’t do it. I assumed I injured myself by overusing my running shoes and I rested to see what would come of it. By Monday, I realized that I was sick again. Even though I “NEVER” get sick. I hadn’t gotten a stomach virus in years before the one that took me down in March. I hadn’t gotten a cold with a fever in years until this week. I was sneezing, coughing, tired, and definitely not hungry. I ran intervals again Tuesday and tried again to run afterward. My feet were still tender and my voice still hoarse, so I struggled through 2 miles. I was fortunate to have other people with me to keep me going. I chose to rest the next few days in the hopes that my energy comes back and I get back to feeling like myself when I lace up my shoes.

What didn’t cross my mind until someone mentioned it: maybe I’m being hard on myself. I can’t be mean to me if I want this to be enjoyable. I know I can’t get any better if I don’t challenge myself. I know that sometimes I’m going to be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. What I don’t want to do is make myself think I’m failing when I’m learning. I’m fairly new at being an athlete. This is the first year I didn’t take a break from running during the winter. I finally don’t have to start over with running after months. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to take off for too long while I’m sick because starting over is such a pain. The good thing about being afraid to get too far behind is that it’s probably unlikely to happen because I know I still want to run.

So what am I doing? I’m running tomorrow (Saturday) on run/walk intervals with ambitious people learning to run a 5k. I will bring the appropriate attire for a longer run with me to our meeting place, adjust my wardrobe as needed, and put a few miles in to flex my running muscles. I have a 5k race next weekend, so I suppose I’ll do some speed work early this week. I’ll then have to commit to doing the long runs after the race. I think that leaves time for me to recover from having been sick and time for me to give myself enough rest. I also think it’ll give me a little time to break in my new shoes. My soreness may have been from me starting to get sick, but there’s no point in taking chances on injury. I’m planning to be an athlete for awhile, so I’d better get good at knowing when to stop, go easy, and go hard. I can’t wait to see what my next run teaches me.

I’m also considering doing the “GO! St. Louis” marathon or half marathon next year because I saw so many pics from it this past weekend and it looks fun. My friend, Cathy, took a pic from the run across the bridge where you get a view of the downtown skyline and the Gateway Arch. I think that would be really cool. I’m from St. Louis and the Arch is one thing that really stands out to tell me I’ve arrived.

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I took this from the train (obviously), but you get the idea…

 

Thanks for reading!

Never Again…’til next time

I signed on to mentor the Spring 2016 10k/Half Marathon training program for the experience of being a mentor and I enjoyed being a participant in the Fall program. Fleet Feet invited me to come mentor and I felt special to be asked. I had access to the 12 week 13.1 plan while I mentored people to run the 10k over 11 of those weeks. It helped that they said they’d pay for my entry into one of the goal races upon my completion of mentoring the program. So, I signed up to run the half marathon race despite being primarily involved with the 10k training. I did the half marathon training runs on my own until week 10 when I was too sick to run my practice 13.1 miles. I’m glad that I was involved with the 10k group because the half marathon was a test of my inner and outer strength. I was able to experience the 10k training and race focusing on the people participating, which was more enjoyable in my opinion.

Training started when the weather was a bitter cold and the windchill was often in the single digits and sometimes nearing negative numbers. We did our hill and speed training together as a group. The 10k race had a rather challenging hill on the course. I was pretty confident I had hills and weather taken care of and that they no longer made me shudder. I even had my best 5k time on a rainy day in March. Then came the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon of 2016.

The race took place in Springfield, IL. It is about an hour from where I currently reside, so I found another person doing the race who was willing to share her hotel room for the night before. This meant I could get up considerably later than if I was riding there in the morning. We were walking distance from the starting line and our hotel was across the street from the place we picked up our packets and had the pre race expo. Another member of our group made dinner reservations at 7pm, which was a little late for me, but I was just going along since I hadn’t been involved in the planning process other than saying I’d be there. I gave myself a Jamberry manicure with a running woman on each of my fingernails. I cut a fake tattoo into a silver arrow for my left thumb to remind myself to keep moving forward the same way I had during my last half marathon. I packed everything I thought I might need and stressed over the weather forecast of a chilly, windy race.

I carpooled with a couple of people from the program team and we checked into our hotel together before locating a parking space in a nearby garage. At the check in desk, I stood with my roommate while she offered her card for any incidental expenses. She then told the desk attendant to watch for any “pay per view” charges on her room because “She (motion to ME) REALLY likes her pay per view if you know what I mean (winks and laughs).” I was like, “Whatever,” but the attendant laughed and said he knew what she meant. I apparently enjoy the dirty movies on her tab and I look like the type. It was hilarious and I kept telling people my roommate, Angie, was picking on me. It made the experience more fun, for sure.

We went to the expo and packet pickup where we got our race bibs and official race t-shirts and looked around at some other booths to buy running things or previous race shirts from the club hosting the event. When I went from the bib pickup line to the t-shirt line, the volunteer told me that they were out of my size despite my being registered weeks in advance and specifically stating in emails that last minute registration would not get a shirt. Fortunately, the next size down fit me and I was okay to take it with me despite another volunteer trying to push a men’s size on me instead and telling me I could try them on if I wanted to. I found a race shirt from the previous year that I liked and didn’t have the year printed on it for $1, so I picked that one and another as new running tops for training in. We stopped in at a lounge in the expo’s hotel for a drink and headed out to our dinner.

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It fits fine, thanks!

 

Nothing too exciting happened at dinner. We had conversation and food. We got back to the hotel before 10, then started setting things out for the next day and getting ready to take showers to wind down for the night. Once we were settled in, a boisterous group decided to hold loud, cackling conversation in the hallway of the hotel for a period that seemed extensive given the fact that we were asleep and preparing to wake early for a race. They quieted before I became upset enough to venture into the hallway to ask them to be more considerate of others and move on to demanding silence if that didn’t work.

I woke up 1 minute before the alarm. I hopped out of bed and ran to my phone to check the time and it was 5:59 am. Angie and I agreed before going to sleep that we didn’t need a lot of time to get ready and would prefer a little more sleep time than prep time. We were both ready and out the door before meeting at our agreed upon location at 6:45 am. We wound up leaving a few minutes later than planned because we waited around for people, but grew impatient and were needing to get to a location for our group photo with our other Fleet Feet teammates. We stood around a little after the picture before people started meandering toward the race start. I found myself a pace group for 2 hours and 15 minutes and I stood beside them at the start in hopes of getting that time upon completion of my race. I believed that my best was 2:17, and I just wanted to get a better time than that.
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Pre race hugging for warmth…

The first 6 miles, I hung directly in front of the person holding the pace sign for 2:15. We were having a light conversation about a race that we were both going to be attending in the coming months when a side cramp hit me. I had to pull back and I didn’t want to. I stopped on the side of the road and stretched my arm over my head to release the tightness in my side. The pacer was still in my sights when I started back up. I could see her sign and I wasn’t too far behind. I figured I’d stay where I was and save some energy for later to catch up. I was getting hot and sweaty. I had removed my windbreaker jacket and tied it around my waist. I’d taken 2 packets of GU gel with my water by then. I’d started feeling stiff in my right hip and my feet were feeling each strike on the ground in an unusually sensitive way. I was slowing down and losing the pace sign ahead. I got upset because I just wanted to beat my best time. I looked around and behind me for a familiar face. I looked around for anyone to talk to. Nobody was open to talk to, but I tried to keep pace with a young lady in a hat that had puppy ears on it. Mile 7, I tossed my gloves at our coordinator, Sam. I was so happy to see her each time she was somewhere along the course and I needed the encouragement each time. At mile 8, a van pulled out of a street and spun tires throwing gravel and almost hit me in his/her carelessness and disregard for the event going on.

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Catch my gloves! (Thanks, Sam!)

There was a hill on mile 9 where a man in a wheelchair with the “Quickie” brand on the back struggled to surmount the huge incline. I thought of my late uncle, Chris, who used a similar chair and was even in a print ad for them before he passed away nearly 10 years ago. People around me were yelling to him that he could do it, but I felt the urge to say “we can do this,” and “let’s get this hill now!” I was just repeating it until we finally reached the top. I felt completely defeated and tired. I started internal dialogue about how I just needed to finish the race and I really needed to keep moving forward for a few more miles. I told myself that I hated running and that I would never do another half marathon in my life. I started to have tears in my eyes and feel a sense that I’d been defeated. It didn’t stop there. My bare hands got stiff and cold while my head was hot and sweaty. I tried to soothe myself by warming my hands on my neck and cooling my neck with my hands. The wind started to bear down and the hills were getting harder to do more than walk. My mile times were getting slower each time my watch chimed. I pushed on remembering that it was about finishing. I glanced down to the arrow on my hand reminding me that I needed to decide to keep moving forward to the finish. Nearing the end, I saw a couple of familiar faces and tried to keep pace with them. I started to tire and fall back and when they looked to me, I encouraged them to continue on without me. I was expending as much energy as I could and I still wasn’t moving as quickly as I’d wanted. I tried to walk a short distance to bank some energy for the last mile, but I was losing traction. I picked up the energy I had left and I jogged. I approached the young lady in the puppy hat and I patted her back and said, “C’mon, we’ve only got 1/2 mile left to go. Let’s run it.” She picked up to a run and she was able to muster the energy to take off ahead. I wished for that burst that didn’t come.

The wind started bearing down and blew dirt from the road and tiny pebbles into my face and under my sunglasses. I was feeling weak and defeated. I commented to the women nearest to me that it looked like the weather didn’t want us to finish as a nearby sign rolled over in the wind. I put my head down and I ran to the final corner of the race course. I saw Sam and other teammates along the side of the road cheering for me. I was beat to hell from this race and I was so relieved to see a familiar face, I put my head back up and I ran in to the finish looking up to see the clock edge past 2:24. I hadn’t beaten my best at all.  I finished though. An older woman with gray hair walked up to me holding something and I bowed my head as she wrapped a red ribbon with a medal attached around my neck. I was overcome with emotion.

 

 

I went to walk back to Sam and the others so I could cheer other people on and I saw one of my teammates coming in and I ran as fast as I could to the gate, leaned in, and screamed for she and her friend to finish strong. That was probably the last bit of energy I had in me before I started feeling the true exhaustion. I was able to find some of my friends and commiserate about the hills, the cars along the route trying to run people over, and the brutal winds. Angie and I talked about how we preferred running with a buddy over running a race alone. We shared similar feelings about the emotional ups and downs from the course.

I was slightly damaged, but I wasn’t broken.  I told friends my doubts about being able to run another half marathon again after this one. They said that it was just the conditions and that I’d be back one day. I was able to use colorful language to describe my experience and make some other people laugh who were also feeling a little worse for the wear from the race. I drank my bottle of water and my free beer before going back to the hotel to clean up and put on clothes that weren’t drenched in sweat and misery. We walked to a cafe for lunch before heading back home.

The ride home was intense. Winds were making driving difficult for our friend, Erin, who came to the race to cheer us on despite not being able to run it as she’d planned. We saw broken power poles along the sides of the highway. We went through spots where the dust from the fields was blowing onto the road and diminishing visibility. When we finally got back, I was exhausted. I went home and took a nap before grabbing a takeout menu and calling in an order for Chinese food. I dragged myself to and from the car and back to get my food and parked in front of the TV for a movie with my dinner. It wasn’t long before I was taking some ibuprofen and turning in for the night.

I won’t say that I was traumatized by the race, but it was somewhere near that for me. My assumed best was incorrect. I checked it this morning, the day after the race. It was 2:19 and Saturday’s time was 2:24. I was pretty hard on myself for something that wasn’t actually as bad as I’d though. I only lost 5 minutes on a hilly and windy course day. Had it been ideal weather and less hilly, I might have gotten a better time than I did. There’s really no way to know that for sure. What I know is that I am stronger today than I was when I started this. I know that I’ll run more races and I still want to run a full marathon one day, so I’ll probably run a half marathon again. I’ve even marked the last day I can sign up for a specific marathon at a certain price. Yeah, I know what I said. I’ll say it again, too. I enjoy training for this stuff, though. If I’m going to train for it, I might as well do the race.

Thanks for reading. Below is a pic of my medal that I wanted to badly, I endured this race. Also a pic of Lincoln as an athlete that the artist deserved props for, but I don’t know who it was. My new magnet will be nestled beside my 5k, 10k, and 13.1 magnets on the door to my garage. Please feel free to share as you see fit.

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My bib, medal, and new  sticker and magnet.

*Special thanks to Samantha Quigle of Fleet Feet Bloomington for the pictures, the training, and the encouragement (and Rebecca for bringing my gloves back to me)
**Also thanks to Gisette and Tony for the pics, Erin for the transportation, Angie for the hotel reservation and shenanigans, and all of my team for the support and encouragement for the past 12 weeks.