Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eh, because the "plague."

A week ago I was planning out my next races for this year. Another possible marathon this spring, I mean, I could practically taste that BQ on Knoxville's hilly course. So many good memories of training plus the actual race left me hungry wanting more. One recovery week of 20 easy miles later, I was all set to conquer my next challenge.

 I signed up for the Fleet Feet Racing Team and enjoyed my 1st outdoor speed workout in probably over a year and felt really fantastic running some 600's with the group even with some serious sniffles. But the plague already had me in its grip. After taking off 4 running days this week (and one sick day at work) I ended up running another measly 20 miles for this week.
The past 10 weeks of training went by in a flash.

I mean at this point, I'm more concerned with being injury free, healthy, and happy than OMG MUST CHASE THE NEXT RACE, PR, or WHATEVER. I usually never get sick, so this threw me for a loop in my "plan all the thingz" mentality. I was on the 26.2 high post Knoxville, starting to think of a tentative buildup in my training and subsequently what my next move would be this spring only to be humbled again Because, the "plague." Or should I say "smart" since I surely don't want to end up on the Injured Reserve List and purposely took off each of those 4 days to ensure I was recovering properly, because the "plague."
Seeing him happy melts my heart.

And sure, I love PRs and the thrill of the race, but nothing beats a run with my pup and seeing him super happy. But in the most basic sense, I really just love running.


And for as long as I am able, I do intend to push myself and train for PRs... Because it is important for me to continue to get better at life. I love the challenge of pushing myself beyond what I thought was possible and hitting new milestones and growth whether it be in running, my relationships, work, everything.
In my continual quest to get better at all the thingz, I think about this blog a lot. I love the connections I've made because of it but I've just got nothing to write. And as with all aspects of my life, I'd much rather put out quality than crap. 

When I was training I forced myself to write training logs not only because I enjoy going back to read them, but because writing consistently makes me a better writer. (Kind of like running consistently with quality miles will make you a better runner. Duh.) But now that I'm not training for anything specific, it's like "what the eff do I write about now?"
Paad, L and I at 3FFF.

I feel like I'm at a crossroads with my blog. I'm not enjoying reading blogs for the most part and just feel this whole blogging thing is so stale. Maybe that will change in the future. However, I don't ever intend to share anything truly personal on this page as long as it's still set to "public."  Maybe i'll dig out one of my paper journals for those posts?

Currently, spending quality time with my family and pup and doing well professionally are taking precedence over  Perhaps just writing this post (and forcing out a few more) will bring back the creative writing juices?
Enjoying 70 degrees Sunday before the temps fell 30 degrees within 3 hours.

Until then, I'll just continue to enjoy life with the people who are most important to me.
I loved this "outtake" from our photo sesh today. Matching stride for stride with CB.
And maybe I'll get inspired to write something interesting again...


Friday, April 4, 2014

Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon (RACE DAY!!)

Time: 3:40.06 (my 2nd fastest marathon!)

10 of 37 Age Group

22 of 226 women

108 of 693 Overall

1st finisher from Chicago hahaha, no seriously.

My last 10k of the day was my fastest. Crazy.

Short Story:

I had an absolute blast running this race. Everything came together and I enjoyed (almost) EVERY. SINGLE. STEP.

The morning ritual:
Woke up at 3am to eat oatmeal and drink some coffee before heading an hour out to Knoxville. One of my favorite parts of race morning is sitting in the dark while eating my breakfast in solitude, reflecting on the race I am about to run. It calms my nerves and gives me clarity and confidence by visualizing how I want this race to go. A large part of distance racing (or just performing) is your mindset. Bad thoughts can quickly sabotage the most prepared runner.

Pre Race:
We hung out in the Hilton until about 15 minutes before the race started. It was a *perfect* 37 degrees with light wind for the 7:30am start. The days preceding the race were in the high 60's!   I quickly said my good byes to my mom and L and slipped into the corral alongside the 3:35 pacer. After a beautiful live singing of the National Anthem, we were off!
Pre race thoughts:
I was pretty psyched to run this race. I had been thinking about it for a few years, but finally pulled the trigger on it this year. I knew there would be hills, and that very little of the course would be just plain flat. This was a little concerning given how flat Chicago is, but I contacted Britt for a training plan and we incorporated loads of hills into my treadmill workouts. I felt fairly confident about the hills and my fitness, but still had the memories of September's Fox Valley marathon fresh in my mind- where my body basically shut down with over 10 miles to go. I had to remind myself over and over again how I fixed that issue, and generally do not usually experience any significant issues or surprises during distance races.

My plan:
The only significant goal I had for this race was to have a ton of fun. My pacing strategy was to start with the 3:35 pacer and stick with her until the half, then take off and slightly negative split the race because the 2nd half was "less hilly" than the 1st half. And yes, I was still concerned about those hillz. There ended up not being more than a quarter mile stretch at a time that was actually flat.


The gun went off and I was following the herd up the first of many hills when all of a sudden SH*T! My sunglasses fell off my hat and onto the ground. I quickly stopped to pick them up and almost got trampled. I totally forgot they were on my hat. DERP! Luckily that was the biggest snafu of the day.
Almost 1200' of gain and 1200' of elevation loss. This course is no joke!

26.2 miles of *almost* pure bliss
So I crossed the start of my 11th marathon and really had no idea how this day was going to go. And I really liked that. I felt fantastic in the early miles and kept with the 3:35 pacer through uphill and downhill. She was so amazing telling us what to expect next on the course to prepare us for our next hill to climb. I played leapfrog with her multiple times in the first 10 miles. She would motor up the gigantic hills while my flat lander self would stay at an even effort and slow down considerably. I'd usually catch back up within a mile or 2 and be all "I can do this. I can BQ." 

As we approached the truly gigantic mountain to climb around mil 7, I heard the pacer say "It's really steep and then levels off" that's all I heard before we started our ascent of Noelton hill. When I saw this hill I said HOLY SH*T. I almost considered walking up this beast because running wasn't really getting me too far too fast, but I just slowed a ton, shortened my stride and kept my head down and kept on keeping on. When I reached the level part I was all "that wasn't too bad..." until I looked up only to realize we were HALF WAY THERE. Holy HILL this thing was a monster. I might have muttered more expletives while climbing the 2nd half of this hill. At least it was the worst one of the day.
Running up a hill and trying to stay positive...

It took me a few miles to rejoin the pace group, but when I did the pacer asked how I was doing. Pro tip: If you are a pacer, take a lesson from this gal. It was amazing and encouraging to hear her ask me how I was (each time I rejoined the group) and consequently kept me in a positive freaking mood during these most difficult parts. By mile 10 and another significant incline, I lost the pacer. My positive thoughts were fading fast, and running was starting to feel labored. 

I hit a mental wall here. BOOM. While I had abandoned the BQ by this point, I was still upset that I wasn't going as fast as I thought I could be...I mean, I freaking wanted to BQ so bad and it was slowly slipping out of reach with every hill (Delusional since I had no idea how the hills would affect me). Around mile 12 I saw my mom and L and I shed the Owl Head Hat and my gloves.. Seeing them encouraged me a bit but I was still fighting some hilly demons. I thought about what Coach Britt reminded me "you're choosing to do this and you can choose your attitude towards the situation."
Shedding my gloves and Owl head hat around mile 12.

As soon as I split from the halfers, things got lonely and windy. I suddenly cursed myself for ditching the gloves and hat because the wind was so cold. It was crazy how I felt like there was a headwind even when I would turn 90 degrees down another block. My hands were swollen and painful. I was starting to question why I was doing this... yada yada yada.  Then all of a sudden, without warning, my mood turned around because a song came on my ipod that I needed to hear.
I was on my own after the half... Almost..


As the Macklemore song "Thrift Shop" started playing, I started singing and dancing along with it. The few other runners, spectators, police officers must have thought I went crazy at this point but I picked up the pace and began passing runners I hadn't seen since long before mile 10. As I passed these runners from the full and the relay, we exchanged encouraging words. I was on top of the world. I thought multiple times of Erin during this time. Her Oakland Marathon Recap was nothing short of amazing. Something that resonated with me that she wrote was "If you expect PR's, you will be sorely disappointed 99% of the time." She also chose to celebrate her marathon even when she realized her goal was out of reach. I attempted to do the same.  I train for these events because I genuinely love running. Of course PRs are nice, but I simply love this sport. Around mile 15 I started smiling and dancing and truly enjoying myself on this course. 
Enjoying every single step around mile 18.

Mile 18 while singing and dancing my way through the suburbs of Knoxville, I saw my mom and L again.  I was so happy to see them and was feeling great. I thought about a message Michelle had sent me before the race- where she said that when we side 5'd in Fox Valley it turned her mood around considerably, and how if I wasn't feeling good, that I should do the same. While singing and dancing, I started hi-5ing everyone I saw on the course. The spectators, the volunteers, the police officers directing traffic all got high 5's and thank you's. I was flying on the course by this point. With 8 miles to go I was having a blast.

All smilez with a few milez to go

Running over the huge bridge around mile 21 was amazing! The views were spectacular and motivated me to keep pushing along. More hillz  sucked the life out of me but I continued to have a big goofy grin on my face. With 2 miles to go I was getting tired and my enthusiasm was waning. I continued to high 5 anyone and everyone in sight and got the people sitting at the cafes to cheer as I ran by. One last significant uphill kicked my butt, but a little while later was a crazy steep down hill.I chose to fly down that sucka knowing full well that with my fatigued muscles I could trip easily and roll down it. But I was willing to risk it. I passed more marathoners and relayers and even some halfers at this point as I was enveloped by the shadows of Neyland stadium. I was minutes away from crossing the finish of #11.
I started to cry at this point. I was so freaking happy to be feeling so ridiculously fantastic as I entered Neyland. I was so proud of myself for 10 weeks of training, for feeling great and for conquering all those darn hills. As I started running on the grass my smile was ear to ear and I was happier than I ever though possible after 26.2 miles. Everything clicked. I felt great almost the entire 26.2. It was bliss. 
This was a long overdue celebration especially after the major bonkfest I had at the Fox Valley Marathon of 2013.
I hadn't had a decent marathon since 2012, when I ran Fox Valley the first time. That was the last time everything "came together" where I truly felt confident and good.
Celebrating post race with L and my Mom.

Even with all the hills, and missing my arbitrary goal time by 7 minutes here in Knoxville, this race was exactly what I needed to nourish my runner soul and give me the confidence and motivation to keep on keeping on in this distance.
The Race:
The course started in the shadow of the Sun Sphere and went through many beautiful suburbs of Knoxville. The tree lined streets, the beautiful large houses and friendly volunteers made this race so enjoyable. I absolutely loved how "chill" this race was.  The expo was adequate for this size of race (7,000 participants between all the distances) and had over 65 vendors selling apparel, nutrition, shoes, other race entries and anything else running related. 
The Sun Sphere. Remnant of the World Fair 1982.

This race is hilly. Like, really hilly. It is by no means a PR course, unless of course you train on terrain like this most of the time. It was a good challenge to run these hills, and I felt my training was adequate to prepare me to feel as comfortable as possible on this course. (100% treadmill hillz!) The first half has more crowd support, and once I cut away from the half to continue on, I found I was running by myself for long stretches of the course. At times I wondered if I was on the course- but then would see an officer or volunteer directing traffic and the runners the correct way.

The aid station volunteers were very enthusiastic. One aid station was "Duck Dynasty" themed- complete with everyone in camo and the kids and adults using the duck calls to quack at us. I thought I had seen just about every possible race sign ever, but Knoxville surprised me. In the first half somewhere there was a sign that said "Naked Cheerleaders, half mile up the road." A quarter mile later, "Naked cheerleaders, quarter mile ahead." A quarter mile later there was a sign "Naked cheerleaders, ON BREAK" complete with pom poms on the ground...
Photo from the Knoxville Marathon Facebook Page

 There were ample aid stations (filled with smiling volunteers), live bands almost every mile or 2, nothing was left to chance by the race and was extremely well organized.
Photo from the Knoxville Marathon Facebook Page

This race has all the amenities of a big city race, but with a more intimate small town feel, filled with southern hospitality and charm.
And of course, I was celebrating with a beer post race in the newest addition to my race pint mug collection...