Ice falls and the AT

The weather looked perfect for the weekend, so Sunday, we went hiking.  I had just run 16 miles on Saturday, but THE MOUNTAINS WERE CALLING.

I’ve been dying to check out Crabtree Falls and figured with the warm week we had had (even though there was snow), it was very likely mostly thawed.  I was sort of wrong and sort of right.  It had thawed out a LOT, but not enough.

We parked in the Upper lot and vowed to check out the crazy bridge in the lower lot that now led to nothing and was blocked off by signs warning about the dangers after we finished our hike. We should’ve suspected our hike would’ve been cut short by how slick the parking lot was.  We got to the “bottom” observing area right away and marveled at how beautiful the falls were- especially since they were still partially frozen.  The idea of anything moving that quickly freezing in place was mind-blowing.

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Everything to the right of that rushing water in that picture was frozen solid.  And we aren’t talking some thin drizzling water that splatters over the sides of those rocks. That ice was THICK.  After a few pictures, we started trekking our way up.

We had only made it about 3/4 of a mile until we could not go any further.  The path was completely iced over.

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Several people were going up and around on the side of the hill, but with the kids there, that was not even something I would entertain.  Not only was it dangerous, but there were also signs asking us to stay on the trail and what kind of hiking example would I be to my kids if I disregarded what was asked of me by those who maintained the trails?

Our journey up this mountain stopped here for the day.  But, the way down was speckled with plenty of photo opportunities.  Even with the spoils at the top blocked, this was easily one of the most beautiful trails I’ve been on.

The hike wasn’t very difficult for the kids as there are plenty of wooden and rock steps to help easy the elevation gain.  One last picture and we headed back to the car to check out the crazy bridge.

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Okay. If I’m going to be honest here, I did not care at all about the bridge after I noticed a creepy payphone just hanging out to the side of it.  THERE WAS A PAY PHONE IN THE WOODS.  I kept half-expecting it to ring, but it never did.  Obviously, I would not have answered it if it did. But, seriously, is that not begging to be part of some horror movie?

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The bridge was super pretty, and I’m glad we checked it out.  Shame it couldn’t be walked on.  I mean, it probably COULD have been, but the sign said not to, and I trust signs for the most part.

I had seen the Appalachian Trail crest on the way to the Crabtree Falls parking lot, so obviously given my obsession with that amazing trail, we decided to park in that lot and give that area a little hike. First, we crossed the street and went Northbound for a second because we spotted the coolest suspension bridge from the road.  And it was SO cool. The bridge took us over the Tye River which was one of the clearest, most beautiful bodies of water I’ve seen in a while.

The bridge itself was a little scary because it shook back and forth, but that water. I mean, look at it. The sign up ahead shared miles to a couple shelters and then the trail took a steep uphill.  Feeling particularly unclimb-y after our jaunt on Crabtree falls, we decided to about-face and start hiking southbound.  We entered a section called “The Priest Wilderness”.

This section was uphill, too, but so slightly that we traveled pretty quickly for like a quarter mile before spotting more “waterfall” type movement.  I’m a sucker for bodies of water so I had to snag a pic even though we were so far from it.  From here the trail took a steep incline and we decided our hiking was done for the day.

Come to find out, though, that up that steep incline was many many splendid views and now, obviously, I need to go back and hike that.  My friend, Kat, and I have hopes to thru-hike the AT in the year 2028 (or sooner!) and love when we can scope out sections of the trail.  By the time we actually plant our boots at the beginning, I hope to have hiked more than half of it in sections.

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For now, though, my family and I (and Kat a lot of the time!) will never stop exploring.  There is so much to see and nothing quite like taking a walk in the woods to reset your mood and relax your mind.

If you know of any good thru-hiker books, please suggest them in the comments! I have read a few, but can’t get enough of them.

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You can, you will.

Yesterday, I ran a half marathon personal record.

4 years ago (well, November 2013), I ran my first half marathon in 2 hour and 28 minutes.  I remember it being a huge struggle and since that time I have run 12 half marathons and only 3 have been below that time.  I attribute a lot of the trouble I’ve had with long distance “speed” with a complete disregard for training/race similarity.  In any given month I might’ve been working toward a triathlon, a 5k and a half marathon.  Or a 10k and a spartan.  I was overall “fit” and able to do any of the above, but not ready to give a good impression of my best at any of it.  I’ve struggled to keep the urge to do everything that sounds fun and exciting in conjunction with my goals because all it leads to is a big barrel of disappointment (and a lot of burnout).  But, in 2018 I am going to show ALL THE RESTRAINT and keep my schedule in a good flow.

My 2018 “plan” has me working toward and very likely succeeding in giving a great effort at my goals- because I don’t have myself pulled in 3 different directions at once.  Right now I am training for long distance- and that’s it.  There is no triathlon coming up; there is no spartan coming up.  I’m not concerned about running my fastest 5k- because that’s not what I’m training for right now. After the marathon I will shift my focus and for the next 6 months, sprint triathlons will be the focus.  There is a 10k race at the very beginning of training and a 5k race a couple weeks later, but once the triathlons begin, that’s it. That’s the focus.

But, back to yesterday, a triumphant and surprising day.  Last year, when training for the marathon, I had signed up for zero run races to keep my injury potential very low.  My main focus was the marathon so that was that.  It was a big mistake.  After 6 months of training, I got nothing.  When I was unable to do the marathon, I didn’t even get to say “well, training was fun!” or anything like that.  I had deprived myself of any accomplishment leading up to the race only to come away with nothing. So this year I gave myself a half marathon midway through the training.  I didn’t go into the race expecting a personal record; I was just happy to be running the 13 miles I was supposed to run that day, and getting an awesome medal and t-shirt for my efforts.

The half marathon that popped up was one in Charleston, SC.  A bunch of RVA friends were going down to run the race, so I asked one of my favorite travel buddies, Staci, if she wanted to take a 36 hour adventure.  Of course she said yes because none of us can resist a good destination race.  Our friend, Dawn, also wanted to come so off we went!

We drove the 6 hours from Richmond starting not-so-early in the morning Friday and went straight to the race expo.  A lot of our Richmond friends were there at the same time, so we got to take a group photo.

 

We had heard awesome things about Charleston Restaurants so found a cute little restaurant called Jestine’s Kitchen.  It was incredible.  There was so much food that not a single one of us was able to finish it all.

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We kept checking the weather and oddly enough the temperature was supposed to plummet and the wind was supposed to pick up.  We had all brought an assortment of clothes so did our best with what we brought, but with wind that brought the “feels like” temperature down 12 degrees, you never really know if you’re going to be dressed okay.  The race started at 8am, so wakeup time wasn’t terrible.  Our hotel was right next to the start line so we luckily didn’t have to venture into the cold until the last possibly moment.  We took our obligatory pre-race selfies and off we all went to run our halfs.

 

It was cold. I think the outside temperature was 42, which sounds like a heatwave compared to some of the temps we’ve seen in Richmond recently, but the wind cut through the air and brought it down to the very low 30s.  And it was windy. We’re talking 10-15mph pretty consistently. But, the pullover I had brought was very well insulated and while I was on the edge of “hot” when the wind died down, all the other times the wind was blowing I was so grateful to have that pullover.  My goal was to run the race at a very consistent pace.  My problems previously had been that I had gone out too quickly and been unable to sustain that pace.  So, since this was a training run, my goal was to feel awesome the whole time.  The first 6 miles of the course were GORGEOUS.  A very welcome distraction that I took the time to take pictures of while I ran.  I wasn’t breathing hard and felt like I could run forever.

On the back of the race t-shirt there was the saying “you can, you will” and it was the perfect support beacon.  A cheerful reminder on the backs of everyone who wore the shirt running that I could do this.

 

The course took a turn to a more “boring” setting for miles 7-10ish, but at mile 8 I was still feeling amazing.  I had only had a sip of water at mile 4 along with two chews, and then at mile 8 I drank a little gatorade and had a couple more chews.  I realized, I could probably kick it up a notch because I felt so great.  So for the next mile I slowly sped up.  When I got to mile 9 I thought- I can keep going a little faster, I still feel great!  So I did.  And I still felt great, so, realizing there was only a 5k left I put my brain in “Tuesday morning track speedwork” mode and kicked it up another notch (realizing at this point that I had consistently already run at my PR pace up until this point).  My legs were getting a little tired, so the pace wasn’t quite “Tuesday speedwork” speed, but was definitely faster than I had been running and I was able to come at the end 2 minutes under my fastest half time. And I felt incredible.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that I can count the number of double digit runs I’ve done that I’ve gone faster the second half than the first on one hand. And this was one of those.  My last four miles were my fastest overall hunk of the race, and my last mile was THE fastest mile!  I averaged about 10:45/mile and my last mile was a 10:15.  I had gone into the race with a clean brain, ready for some fun and training run reward and got so much more.

What a difference 2 months makes.  My busted half in Norfolk in November was over 10 minutes slower than this half.  2 months ago, I had set out for a PR and ended up having an awful run. Yesterday, I had gone out to complete my 13 mile long run and had been able to happily push my boundaries and feel a success I had tried over a year to achieve- a half marathon PR.

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We cleaned ourselves up and went out to lunch at a highly recommended lunch spot on Folly Beach called Lost Dog Cafe.   I’m not really a “dog” person, so the atmosphere was lost on me, but the food. O.M.G. the food was incredible.  Having just worked out for over 2 hours, I allowed myself to order a ton of food and I can’t even describe how good it was.  The next time I am in Charleston, I will definitely be back.

 

A very, very short trip, but it was so great.  I can’t wait for the next race- the Shamrock 8k and FULL MARATHON in March!

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5k Palooza

Sometimes I like to really add in a curveball for myself around the holidays.  Like my odd 5k Palooza goal.  It never seems like a stretch until you realize that you still need to do your marathon training long run and that you haven’t swam over 2000 yards since the half iron triathlon in September.  But, on we go.

So, for those in the dark, in the middle of my winter marathon training for the Shamrock Marathon in March, I decided to sign up for the New Years Swim Challenge again.  I had swam 5500 yards last year and assumed I would do around the same again this year.  But, then I had the awesome idea of doing a “triathlon” that would straddle the years.  A multiyear, multisport extravaganza that I appropriately named the 5k Palooza.  5k Palooza started with a 5k swim which would be followed by a 5k bike ride; to finish out the triathlon in the New Year, I signed up for my local running club’s First Day 5k.  Sounds fun, right?

Well, before any of that even started, I still had to squeeze in a long run for good measure.  Saturday morning two of my running buddies and I got some miles in.  I ran from my house to my friend Cate’s house (about 1.25ish miles away) and we ran together to the neighborhood pool (about 3.5 miles total for me) where our other friend Staci’s son had swim team practice.  The three of us then ran a little over three miles together and then dropped off Staci back at the pool. Cate and I ran back to her house giving her a little over 7 miles and then I ran home for the rest of my ten.  Super fun, super tiring.  We also had a fun photo shoot! Because, if you didn’t take a picture- did it actually happen?

Now to Sunday. The beginning of 5k Palooza. Cate and I both thought the swim event started at 11 (because it did last year), so we got ready…and found out it had been moved to 1 this year.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how ill-prepared I was, and suddenly I had more of the day to keep stressing.

Anyhoo, it finally arrived and we started swimming.  Luckily, it was just me, Cate and one other person in our lane, Alex. We just met him that day and it turns out he’s doing the same Ironman as Cate next year! But, we were the perfect lane mates- never bumped into each other.  We did a 2:20 interval (meaning we swam 100 yards and took a break and then started again when 2:20 was up) and then took a 1 minute break after the first 1000 yards, 2 minutes after the second, 3 after the third and 4 after the fourth.  After the 5th, though, we were anxious to finish so only breaked for less than 2 minutes.

The first 1000 yards was hard. But, that could be said for any “warmup”. The first mile in a run is a liar, and the first 1000 yards in a swim is grueling.  I honestly thought I’d make it to 3000 and have to be done. But, we kept going and going.  At 4000 yards we decided to put on our fins to take some of the strain off our poor, undertrained arms. Alex pressed on without them.  And just like that, we were done.  I had spent so much time negatively believing that I would fail at my goal that I was over the top excited to have finished it! The hardest part was done. Cate and I had swam a 5k. (Alex kept going. We weren’t trying to be heroes.) Including the breaks, it took me 2 hrs, 29 minutes and 9 seconds. Not including them, it was about 1 hr 40 minutes.  The first and hardest piece of the 5k Palooza was behind me.  And my poor arms felt (and still feel) like they were going to fall off.

After I got home, I immediately changed clothes and took to my trainer for the bike 5k. I was exhausted and hungry, but knew that if I hesitated, I was going to skip the easiest part of the challenge and fail for literally no reason. So, I kept my nose to the grindstone and managed to pump out a 5k on the bike trainer in 13:15.  Definitely not the fastest biking I’ve ever done, but I was grateful to just be moving the pedals! 5k bike- check!

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Last, but not least- the 5k run.  Even though I was beyond exhausted- I had to watch the ball drop with my husband and kids to bring in the new year!  I’m not much of a “napper” so I just kept pushing forward.  The First Day 5k wasn’t until 11am the next day, so I figured I’d be okay.

I went to bed shortly after the ball drop and completely forgot to set an alarm so slept until about 815. Probably the latest I’ve slept in in a very, very long time.  But, I felt super rested and cautiously optimistic about my super secret goal of keeping my 5k under 30 minutes.  The last time I had run the First Day 5k in 2016, my time was 31’05 and that was my best time for that race yet.  While most of my 3 miler speedwork days, including easy sections, had been below 30 minutes, I figured the goal was a little ridiculous considering all the battering I had already done to myself this weekend.

This morning was cold. Like way way cold for VA. It started out in the single digits and crept it’s way slowly up to the 20ish degree weather we would run in.  I wore a RIDICULOUS amount of clothes and I’m not even sorry. I had a cotton camisole, thermal long sleeve, thick pullover, vest, gloves, winter tights, running skirt, wool socks, knee high compression socks, a polar balaclava, and winter hat. Some wonderful woman also gave me hand warmers to put in my gloves.  I took a selfie with some of my friends and then we were off.

This particular club race has a fast field of runners so you really can never tell where you are in the scheme of things.  I kind of figured I was plodding along at around the 1030ish minute mile.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the first mile buzz at a 929! I got really excited and thought- I can try and keep this up!  So I just kept going and going.  I saw the water stop as I came up toward 1.5 miles and realized my lips were so dry.  So when I passed the turn around point and came back to it, I snagged a cup of water from one of my favorite water stop/SAG divas, Pam, and stood and sipped on the FREEZING water for a second.  I didn’t want to risk walking with it because I’ve been known to accidentally throw a drink in my own face and if i had done that in this temperature I probably would’ve cried.

Then I was off again.  The second mile buzzed on my phone- 941. I had obviously lost a few seconds to the water stop, but was still extremely pleased. But, now I was also SO tired. All I wanted to do was walk.  I was on the 12th mile in 5k Palooza and I was now faced with a decision.  Do I push through and finish like I want to, or do I walk and miss my goal, but claim it’s fine because I was tired anyway.  I want 2018 to be a show of my grit.  I have struggled over and over again to find the power to push through the pain and I didn’t want to give in on the first day….so I didn’t walk. I kept going and pushing. I even passed a few people towards the end.  The last mile was a 939 and the last tenth of a mile was a 833 pace.  My official 5k time was 29’46. I had done it. 5k Palooza was over and I had finished it on such a wonderfully high note.

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I’m exceptionally proud of how the 5k Palooza turned out.  I shouldn’t have been sitting around predicting my failure, but I am so glad I showed myself that I can and will complete my goals if I just dig deeper.  Now to stop setting crazy goals for myself.

Thinking about starting a run streak in January….

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Red, Red Roses.

So, I am beyond excited to announce that I have been chosen as an INKnBURN Ambassador!

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I was introduced to the brand early in 2017 when my wonderful friend Staci bought me the most lovely tank top to celebrate my first marathon and my new house. Instantly, I was hooked.   This is the tank:

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I’m stoked to represent this company because it’s the only brand of clothing I own that brings vivid life to all workouts.  Literally art in motion!  I’ve also never ever had a problem with the shirts, tanks or shorts rubbing, which is so nice.

 

I’m so excited to represent them out and about and continue to add to my collection of beautiful wear.  Something special about a unique and stunning outfit while getting.it.done.

What’s your favorite INKnBURN piece?

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Long walks along the beach

My family and I have been doing the Virginia State Park Trail Quest program for the last 2 year-ish.  Basically, you visit any of the parks and once you’ve gone to 5, 10, 20, all- there are pins.  There are 38 parks (39th under development!), and we have now been to 13 thanks to our hike yesterday! Why yes that DOES mean we have the 10 park pin!

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We went to Chippokes Plantation State Park which is easily one of my new favorites.  It is nestled on the Cobham bay of the James River. Virginia has amazing parks because they range in everything from your typical Appalachian Trail-style mountain hiking to meadow hills to ocean and river beach.  Chippokes Plantation was a “river beach” style park.  So instead of a lot of trekking, we mostly did beach-combing meandering.

The beach was SMOTHERED in shells and rocks.  One of the park officials told us to look for shark’s teeth, but we didn’t find any of those.  Along the beach there were gorgeous tree roots popped up where the beach had eroded away a bit.  We came at a lower tide so a lot was uncovered.

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The kids and Kile had a blast skipping rocks, and I even learned how to do it. I think the crew record was 10 skips? I was so excited when I got it to skip 3 times, haha!

The outside temperature was decently warm, but the water was SO cold.  That didn’t stop me from reaching in and pulling out amazing shells! There were tons of pieces of shells you could tell were HUGE.  Lots of little tiny shells, too.  We all got super excited when we found ones that were unbroken.

After we finished wandering around the beach, we headed up to the mansion.  It ended up being closed (which we had thought may be the case), but we got to watch birds doing this crazy thing where they all gathered in the trees and then flew away really fast and then came back.  Every time they flew away from the tree it made this really loud boom/whoosh sound. It was really, really cool.

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All in all, a WONDERFUL state park that everyone should go enjoy.  Great for those with little kids because the trail to get to the water was not difficult and mostly paved.  Lots of camp sites, and we drove by a park swimming pool in the park. Definitely check the tides before you go, though. We got exceptionally lucky that it was low tide when we went because a lot of what we saw would’ve been covered by water had it been high tide. We will definitely be going back in the summertime at some point to check out the mansion.

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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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