Goodbye, 2017.

So, it’s been a great year.  It may seem weird to say that considering some crappy things happened…but overall, can’t complain! Especially when it comes to racing!

For my races this year, I did 3 bike races, 1 10k, 1 5k, 2 half marathons, 2 road relays, 2 sprint triathlons, a 10 mile trail race, a marathon JUST FOR ME and a half ironman distance triathlon.  I also was the race director for the Great Gator 5k with over 400 participants, and coached for the Sports Backer’s half marathon training team for the Markel Richmond Half Marathon.  WHEW.

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I walk away from the year with a 10k PR of over 2 minutes (1’00’07), a 5k PR of 4 seconds (28’24), a Pink Power Sprint Triathlon PR of just under 6 minutes (1’27’19) and bar-setting PRs for the Robious Sprint Triathlon (1’57’43), the marathon distance (5 hrs 25 min), and the half iron distance (7 hrs 45 min).  I plan on going after PRs in all those distances (except the half iron) in 2018.  My biggest goal being the Pink Power PR (hoping to shave 10 minutes off).

I had a few really rough races…most notably the one I never started- the Shamrock Marathon, haha!  But, seriously. I struggled through the 10 mile trail race and both half marathons I ran this year.  Didn’t even come close to a half marathon PR in either race this year.  The half iron was also very grueling due to my knee.  But, it’s okay. You can’t win them all, right?

The year isn’t over yet, but I’ve run 750 miles, biked 640 miles, and swam about 33 miles. I’ve experienced a TON of burnout and while I was hoping to do a total of 2017 miles, I’ll miss my mark by about 500 miles by the time the year is out. And I’m okay with that. I’ve asked a lot of my body, and mentally, a lot of times, I wasn’t ready to keep training.  I’m hoping in 2018 with the drop back to the shorter mile races that I might reclaim more totally consistent training since I won’t go from one gruelingly long event to the next.

Big things I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t start over next week, just do each day as if it were its own.  
    • It’s so easy to “scrap” a week (even mentally) because you missed a workout, or ate horribly or anything like that. But, it doesn’t have to be a waste.  You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, forgive and forge forward.  I’m not perfect and never will be, so following my training schedule to the crossed T may never happen, but I can do my best and not fold when I miss a day or can’t finish a workout.  Tomorrow is a fresh start.
  2. Always run for fun.
    • The races I go into with a great headspace, thinking I’m going to have such a fun race,  are the races I come out with a triumphant finish.  The ones I go into with worry and clouded by expectations are always the ones that end up with me caving to the mental pressure.
  3. Doing the same thing over and over again will never yield different results.
    • I’ve spent so much of my time being in my comfort zone…running only until it started to feel uncomfortable…and I can’t expect anything but what I have from that.  I’m not going to improve if I don’t start chasing my goals seriously….and maybe chasing some fast people would help a bit too.

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I’ll finish out the year with the start of “5k Palooza”. I’ll swim a 5k and then bike a 5k on New Years Eve day and then run a 5k to start out the new year Jan 1.  Like a year-straddling triathlon!

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Onto 2018

This year through racing and training and life I’ve learned a lot about myself.  But, the biggest thing I learned was I lack grit. When I’ve said that before I’ve gotten “oh no you do not! I could never have finished a half ironman/marathon” but it isn’t even about that.  I feel an innate obligation to finish things, but not to go with everything I have.

My first true glimpse at that would be my first “fastest mile” test in June.  I pushed, sure….but at the end when I should’ve been spent, I could’ve kept going.  When I was supposed to leave it all on the table, I didn’t.  I chalked it up to usually doing distance running and “usually portioning my energy over a longer period of time.” But, at the Pink Power triathlon in August, I got to see what it really was.  My swim wasn’t great, but by the end of the bike, I was 6 minutes ahead of last year’s time (assuming my run would stay the same), and I felt great. But, in the run (where I was pacing to finish 2 minutes faster than the previous year’s run), I got to about half a mile left and thought to myself (and I am not exaggerating) “is 8 minutes faster than last year really that much better than 6 minutes?” And I walked. I had less than five minutes left of work to do (and I still felt fine, by the way) and decided I didn’t feel like it.  I was excited to have shaved 6 minutes off of last year, but simultaneously stunned at my complete complacency.  The potential was there to be even better, but I didn’t bother.

My internal regrets with how I “let myself off the hook” with that race helped shape what my goals for 2018 would be, though.  I didn’t need to keep climbing in miles and races…I needed to take a different step.  I need to work on tapping into my grit.  And to be able to do that, I have to be able to lay it all out in a mile; I need to be able to clinch my teeth and finish the race.  In 2018 (after I get my retribution and complete the Shamrock Marathon), I will only be doing short distance races.  10k and shorter runs and only sprint triathlons in an effort to work on speed and grit.

My super duper double secret goal (and serious stretch) is to drop 10 minutes from my Pink Power Sprint Triathlon.  The first time I ever did that race (2014) my time was 1:37:39.  The next year I dropped to 1:35:26. Last year I did it in 1:33:05, and this past year I dropped to 1:27:19. So I’m hoping to be at 1:17.  Lofty, I KNOW.  But, if I don’t reach for the stars- THEN WHO WILL.

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So, to recap- 2018 Goals.

Complete Shamrock Marathon
Sub-hour 10k
1:17 Pink Power Triathlon
I’ll throw in a PR 5k- for good measure 😉

 

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Miles to Go

Marathon training: week 1 is DONE.  The goal of the week was to just run happy.  Starting marathon training again was very bitter sweet, but to explain that I have to go back a bit.

Last October, I began marathon training for my first ever marathon- the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach.  And for 6 grueling months I had cold, dark winter runs- some with my training buddy Tammy, but many on my own. All of that culminated into- nothing.  My family and I went to VA Beach and picked up my packet for the race, but that was as far as I got.

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1am race morning I woke up sick to my stomach.  Hoping it was just nerves, I went back to bed. Unfortunately, it was not a fluke and by 6am I was so dehydrated that my husband and kids had to take me to the ER.  Instead of running the marathon that I had spent 6 months training for, I sat with an IV in my arm. I was crushed.

I had sent J&A Racing an email with a copy of my hospital discharge papers asking if there was anything they could do, and they graciously sent me all the finisher items and told me to do it virtually.  So, my “sole” sisters- the Lizes – got together and planned my virtual marathon. Little did I know how epic this marathon would be.  I woke up on “race day” not really knowing what to expect…and was surprised by friend after friend running with me, at water stops, cheering- about 50 people showed up to help me run a marathon.

The Rainey-Check Marathon is one of the most incredible things that has ever been done for me.  I am so grateful for everyone that came out that day, and especially for these two who spent oodles of time coordinating everyone and making sure it was a very special re-do.  The news even covered it! Nothing like a video of you ugly-crying making it to television, haha!

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But, of course, I still have unfinished business with the actual race.  So, obviously I signed up for the Shamrock Marathon 2018.

Anyways, that brings us back up to this week.  Starting marathon training has been nerve-wrecking.  I keep thinking about the big what-if.  “What if I do all this training and I end up not being able to do the race again?”

Obviously I can’t spend all my days wondering what could possibly happen, but sometimes it’s hard to shake.  And as I come off a tough reality check in Norfolk, I came into this week hoping I could dust myself off.  Running is such a mental game that the pressure of starting something again is a lot to handle.

But, I can do this.  I gave myself a week to enjoy the sunshine and reclaim my love of training and running before getting down to business- and it worked.  I had the best week of running I have probably ever had.  I felt strong, happy and  able.  There are many weeks and many miles to go, but I have started and started well. One of my favorite quotes says “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu). And while I have much to do, I have taken that step. Shamrock Marathon- I’m coming for you.

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Running is my anchor.

The “catch-phrase” of the challenge weekend I did this past weekend was “running is my anchor”.  Meaning that running keeps you exactly where you need to be. Such a wonderful view of such a wonderful activity.  And even though this weekend may not have been overall every single thing that I wanted- both days it was completely true.

I went into the weekend looking for two personal records.   This spring/summer was comprised of hard workouts that were extremely plentiful and long for the half ironman, but as soon as that was over I went to a somewhat “burned out” version of what my fall work should have been.  I skipped workouts right and left because I just did.not.want.to.  Also, most of my long runs were “coaching” runs…meaning there was a lot of start and stop and fast and slow. And to expect personal records after that is a bit unrealistic.

Saturday’s weather was not my favorite.  I can’t stand the cold.  I had a throw-away coat that I bought in Kentucky at Goodwill that I brought with me to wear until I got too hot.  I ended up not tossing it, but instead tying it around my waist while running to have in case I got cold again.  I went ahead and named it “Myrtle” because I feel like it’s an appropriate name for it. And now that it has a name, I will probably never be able to throw away this throw-away coat.

I had decided to run completely on feel. I wouldn’t check my watch for pace, for time, for anything. I was going to just GO.  And I did. I remember thinking while I was running- these miles feel a little difficult so I think they’re in the 9s…but what if they’re in the 10s and they feel difficult? Or the 11s? I have my watch set to beep every half mile so I knew when I was at the halfway point ,and I was starting to get tired. I wanted to walk so badly, but I kept telling myself that I knew I could do this, so keep doing it.

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When the beep for what was around the 2.5 mile marker hit, I tried to kick up my pace a bit- knowing there wasn’t much left and the faster I got there, the faster I would be done. I crossed the finish line and then turned off my watch- and on it was a shiny new PR.  Not by much, but I had no idea I had even come close the entire time and that felt like such a victory.  I hadn’t PRed because I saw the potential to do so on my watch, I PRed because I did what I felt like I could. I even got to ring the awesome PR bell. I felt amazing.  My first and third mile were exactly the same pace, and the 2nd one was a little slower (probably where I was trying to convince myself that I could really do this).  So it wasn’t negative splits, but more like a pace parabola.

But, Sunday.  Now, Sunday’s weather was much more of “my taste” of weather.  Well, everything except the wind. But, honestly even that didn’t bug me even though I almost lost my sweet hat twice.  I started out behind the 2’15 pace group a bit because my PR was 2’23 and I wanted to get below that.  I wasn’t sure that 2’15 was the right pace so I stayed back a bit and let myself “feel” my run.  I quickly caught up with them and realized that if I settled into their pace I could have a great run and a great PR.  The first four and a half miles were spectacular and I felt like I could run forever.  Towards the end of the fifth mile, though, my stomach bottomed out and I needed a bathroom break.  I tried not to let it break my spirit because I had plenty of time. PLENTY.  I even remember joking with myself thinking “How funny will this be?  Back to back half marathon PRs both including a potty break.” As I set out into the 6th mile I was still doing pretty well (I felt completely better)- even into the 7th…but then I just couldn’t.  It’s not that I was tired, or that my legs were hurting or anything.  I was just deflated and that grit that kept me going on Saturday just wasn’t there.  I had PLENTY of time to play with. And could easily have bounced back at any point for that PR- even a course record PR, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  This picture says it all.

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At the finish line I crumpled into a pile of self-proclaimed failure and cried self-pity tears. But, I shouldn’t have done either.  I had just completed a HALF MARATHON. The day after a PR 5k.  And with a time that I used to have to work very hard for.  It wasn’t the goal I had set for the day, but it was an accomplishment nonetheless.

My friend Liz had us read a book called How Bad Do You Want It? for book club one month and I feel like having read it helped me quickly put it all in perspective.  I had psyched myself up for something that I had not been willing to put the work in for.  I had spent the fall traipsing around training as I pleased- not the plan of a person who wanted a half marathon PR.  I was ready to run a half-marathon, but my grit wasn’t there for the struggle, the push and ultimately the success of a PR. I equate myself to a balloon.  I began the race with a slow leak and by the end was so deflated I could barely float.

I had said before that “running is my anchor” was perfect for both days- and I think that’s extremely true.  It gave me the boost I needed on Saturday to keep my spirit where it needed to be…and it gave me a reality check on Sunday to make sure my motivation and effort moved back to where they need to be.  I don’t walk away from this weekend feeling defeated….I walk away from this weekend feeling inspired.  I have the grit, as I could see in the 5k, but I also have work to do.

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Super grateful for the Lizs who complete my running trio.  We vacation so well together, and accomplish so much together.  Triumphant return to running after breaking her collarbone for Liz with the skeleton shirt, and a DOUBLE PR weekend for Other Liz.  How bad did she want it?  Well, she got exactly what she deserved. 🙂

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Next up, anniversary trail run with my husband on December 3rd!  10 miles to celebrate 10 years!

But first, marathon training starts TOMORROW.

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Half Ironman…does that make me an Aluminum-man?

Sorry, periodic table joke.

It’s been just about 2 months since I completed my first Half Ironman.  I hadn’t really intended on writing a race report at all….because it didn’t exactly go as I had planned…but what in life does? So, for posterity’s sake (okay, maybe just mine when I go after #2 in 2019), here it is.  Why it was great, why it was awful and why I would ever entertain doing it again.

Race day.  I got there before the sun came up to rack my bike and set up my transition area.  I took with me my beautiful bike, Barracuda, and what felt like every single sport related thing I owned, and I had to jam it in this little teeny tiny “spot”.  Note to self- need a better transition bag. Duffle + wheeling bike = not ideal.

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My training buddy, Cate, helped me wriggle into the wetsuit I had borrowed from her (and tried for the first time several days before).  I was extremely nervous, but at least knew I’d be warm in the water.  I bid her adieu and walked down to the water to wait for my wave to start.

The swim was an interesting beast.  I don’t think I really understood what it would be.  The only other open water race swim I have done was a straight shot down the river and I had the good sense to start towards the beginning of that group.  This one, however, I shyly hid towards the back.  I am not by any means the fastest swimmer in the world, but I could feasibly have sat in the top 30ish percent of swimmers in that wave.  With that information, I’ll let you take a wild guess what starting at the back of the wave was like. I kept running into swimmers and having to stop and had to sight way more than I should’ve to make sure I was swimming around and not on top of people.  That ate up a lot of time, but I still finished in exactly what my “doing this time would make me happy” time was.  There even was a section at the end of the swim that was way too shallow to swim so I had time to remove the top half of my wetsuit while I was trudging towards shore. So I left the water after a 1.2 mile swim feeling like a million dollars and ultimately had a pretty quick transition time.

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The bike.  The bike has always been the section that is the most difficult for me, but I went into this one feeling very positive- I had a great swim, the sun was out, and it was gorgeous.  On the course, I was passed by tons of cyclists. Being my weakest discipline, I was neither surprised nor upset.  Although, I could’ve done without the backhanded compliment a gentleman paid me as he sped past- “you must be a very fast swimmer!”. Guess so, hah! Around mile 30 (out of 58, mind you), I started to reach my limit of cycling.  My butt hurt and I was tired of pedaling. But, I still had so much to do.  So I tried to distract myself with the beautiful scenery around me.  It really was a gorgeous race course and I have never ridden on the road with so many courteous drivers.  There was one woman in a red SUV who tried to clip me with her sideview mirror who I had a few choice words for, but I can’t remember a single other car who passed too close. And over that kind of distance- that felt nice. Around mile 40 my knee started nagging a bit.  So I stopped at mile 41 because I had to pee anyway and stomped around a bit hoping to kind of “shake it off”.  It was somewhat okay for the next four miles, but after that it progressively got worse and worse.  It got to the point that by mile 55 I was literally pedaling with one leg and telling myself “if you finish this half ironman, you aren’t ‘obligated’ to do this ever again. JUST DO IT.” My knee was throbbing and I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. I was trying not to freak out because I just *knew* that once I started the run I could shake it off.

I think what’s most frustrating about what happened next is I felt great.  Like, my hydration and nutrition up to this point had been stellar and I literally felt like I could run for miles.  So I racked Barracuda, took off my helmet, got on my running shoes, and started to run. Only, I had to stop after not even a mile because my knee did not feel better…it felt so much worse.  In that mile, the pain in my knee felt like it kept winding tighter and tighter until I absolutely had to stop and walk for fear that it would snap. I kept telling myself that after a little shakeout, I would be able to run. So, after the pain calmed a bit, I started running again- and then just over a quarter mile later had to walk again.  And so I continued, my stress level raising higher and higher as the 15 minute miles ticked by.  I felt awful for my family, who was waiting, unsuspecting, at mile 4, and was greeted with tears and the only thing I was thinking – “I’M GOING TO DNF!!!!” as I stumbled by.  DNF means did not finish. It can mean not making the swim cutoff, wrecking, needing medical attention- or for where I was heading- not making the race time cutoff of 8 hours.

I kept going, though, because I was not ready to quit. I had a good cushion from my swim and bike, but still was fighting to be under the 8 hours averaging just shy of 15 minutes/mile.  I no longer was looking at my watch for the time that had elapsed in the run; I was looking at it for the time of day. I knew at 3:06pm my time was up.

The race course was beautiful, lots of nice soft non-technical trails. The sun was shining and the temperature wasn’t too bad. I was trying to stay positive, but I left so many tears on that course.  I kept trying to run farther and faster, but kept having to take breaks.  I was passed by SO many people, but I didn’t even care- I just wanted to get it done and with a “legal” time.  I think the people around me could sense my angst; I have never been offered so many encouraging words- by people doing the same thing as me.  We were all there together and whether those people realize it or not, they helped feed my strength and will to continue and not be defeated.  I shaved minutes off miles- but only in the last two miles managed to go below a 13 minute mile.

I rounded the corner and headed towards the finish line and some random guy ran like 50 feet with me- cheering, telling me how awesome he thought I was, and how little I had left to run. I saw him do it to the girl in front of me too, but it was such a special thing to do for everyone…it was so needed at that point.  Then I saw my family again- and my training buddy, Cate.  At that point I had been on the race course for about 7 hours and 44ish minutes.  To say I was overwhelmed is just not enough. I was tired, I was hurting, I was kind of upset at the direction my race had taken….but I was so happy in that very minute to see them.  I had nearly done it.

The announcer said my name and the entire race volunteer team cheered so loudly. It was incredible and so exhilarating. I had done it. It was grueling and at times I didn’t want to anymore, but I had done it.  7 hours, 45 minutes and 48 seconds.  Almost 15 minutes below the cut-off time.

Am I proud of that time in spite of everything? Absolutely.  It didn’t end up being the test of my ability, but instead a test of my fortitude and I pulled myself together to accomplish it. I had every opportunity to fall apart- and don’t get me wrong, I did at times- but I clawed my way to a finish.  So now, I don’t *have* to do another one to accomplish that goal- I’ve done it. When I do another one, it will be because I want to.

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Above that, I am so grateful for my family and friends.  They stood at the hot finish line, in the bright sun waiting for me.  Excited for me, worried for me- but *there* for me.  And I’ll tell you- the people that will stand around for HOURS just to watch you accomplish something insane….those are definitely people to keep around. (These people definitely fall in that category as well, in spite of not witnessing the half iron crazy)

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So there it is. Adventures in racing for longer than I work most days.

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Richmond Ready.

“Richmond Ready”- what is that?  In little ol’ RVA it’s a way of running life.  It’s the right of passage for many into the endurance distance races…..it’s the Richmond Marathon/Half Marathon/8k.  Whether you are training to snag one of the ever beautiful medals or just annoyed at how many closed roads you have to deal with that day….you know about it if you live in Richmond. To be “Richmond Ready”, you are ready to run one of the November Richmond races.

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I’ve been lucky enough the past three fall seasons to be a coach for the Sports Backer’s Half Marathon Training Team (Greyhounds!).  I’ve gotten to see half marathon hopefuls through a training season, and then to the end of the race.  I’ve gotten to give advice, calm fears and cheer hundreds of runners.  On the race course whether they need me for 20 feet or 3 miles, I am there to help.  It is my privilege to relish in everyone’s joy, and with pride see so many cross that finish line.

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To those that will not be crossing now or have had to back out in the past- I commend you on choosing your health over your pride.  It’s not easy to concede to an injury, but it happens to us all.  Next year Richmond will have to be ready for YOU.

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It’s going to be an exciting weekend seeing another round of successes- I can’t wait.

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Plants errrrwhere

So for my birthday we went out and bought a BUNCH of plants. But nothing I accomplished today had anything to do with any of those. Be prepared, though. Some sweet terrariums are coming.

Today I managed to repot my lucky prayer plant for my desk at my NEW JOB, repot the ficus bonsai tree, and also give the air plant some rocks for its new home.

First, the prayer plant, though, which was essentially just your average everyday repot. Dirt, pull out of nursery planter, pull apart the roots, sit in new pot, fill with dirt. Done!

And then the bonsai.  I had to cut the roots a bit because they were getting out of control….but just a couple scissor snips and it was perfect.  I didn’t need to anchor the tree because the base was already pretty awesome.  This time I used mostly bonsai mix, but added in a little potting soil.

Finally, the air plant.  I’m not going to lie, I think it’s going to die.  It was glued to the bottom of the old globe and I ripped it out.  I’m not sure what it’s supposed to look like on the bottom, but when I tried to pull the glue off, some of the bottom of the leaves came off.  Time will tell, I suppose.

I started thinking of how I wanted to do the terrariums, but realized for the closed-lid ones I needed some potting charcoal…so that production takes a halt until I acquire that.  I would start the open one, but I’ve already spent a lot of the day playing in the dirt and there’s laundry that needs my attention.

Oh! I also started some jalapeño seeds finally!

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