Saturday, December 31, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new

It's become a tradition for me to write a blog on New Year's Eve (or thereabouts), in which I muse about the previous year, as well as set goals for the upcoming year.  As I've mentioned in the past, goal-setting has been a part of my life for decades.  I have always loved to make New Year's Resolutions, and the desire to improve myself has not ebbed as I've aged.

First, though, I must think in retrospect.  2016... wow.  It was quite a year!  The goals that I set including training smart, qualify for the Boston Marathon, compete in my first half-Ironman, and find gratitude in every run.  If this were a report card, I would have earned a 75%.  And if you know me at all, you are fully aware which of my goals were not met.  Boston continues to elude me, and once again this year, it was due to a last-minute injury that occurred tragically right before I was to compete in my third marathon.  A hip stress fracture left me on crutches and once again cheering from the sidelines for my friends in Toledo.  It was a definitely deja vu experience, one that I truly hope to never experience again.

But the other three goals--check, check, and check!  I'm super proud of my first half-Ironman race, especially as I had to come back from the stress fracture.  I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to compete in the race up until a few weeks beforehand.  The cherry on top was breaking six hours, which is a time that was beyond my wildest expectations when I started the race.  The gratitude, well, that came easily this past year.  Especially after being on crutches for six weeks... I still breathe in the air of thankfulness each time I lace up.  As far as training smart goes, I had high hopes of escaping injury in 2016.  Unfortunately, my title of oft-injured runner was difficult to avoid yet again.  But... there's always 2017!

Well, it's out with the old, and in with the new!  Here are my aspirations for the upcoming year:

1) Race in a marathon.  I've downgraded my hopes of qualifying for Boston (which has been a goal of mine for the past two years) to simply competing in a marathon again.  I have trained for four marathons and only raced in two, due to injuries in 2015 and 2016.  More than anything, I just want to race in a marathon again.  The time that it takes me to do so at this point is inconsequential.  Finishing 26.2 miles again in and of itself is my dream.

2) PR in the half-Ironman.  I took the plunge once again and registered for Ohio 70.3.  This year's race will take place on July 30, promising hotter, more difficult conditions than 2016.  Yay... not.  I waffled between registering for this race or another 70.3 when it would be a bit cooler, but I loved having the support of friends and family, as well as not having to worry about lodging, travel, etc.  This year, I want to go into the race fully prepared to give it my all!

3) Become a scholar of the heart.  Heart-rate training, that is.  I was introduced to using a heart rate monitor by my triathlon coach Betsy during the final 6 weeks of training for the half-Ironman, and quickly found a place for myself within the data and numbers.  I have recently hired a running coach, George Roulett.  He is a local, well-known runner who embraces training by heart-rate like no other.  I am ready to allow my heart to be my guide, and let George guide me in this school of thought.  So far, this means to run slower than I ever have before.  I admit, it's not been easy.  ("What do you mean, run a 10:30/mile?  I can't run in the 10's... I just can't!")  I figure, though, that at this point I have nothing to lose.  If heart-rate training will allow me to move forward as a runner, then I am all for it.  I have nothing to lose!

...and if I could have abs like hers, that'd be an added bonus LOL!
4) Compete in a swim meet.  This last one was something that literally just popped into my head.  I have been training a couple of days a week with a local Master's team for the past few months.  I seriously LOVE being a part of a team again. One day, we did a set where we had to go off the blocks.  I haven't dove off the blocks in about two DECADES.  Yikes!  But wow, was it ever fun!  I want to go to a Master's competition and actually suit up and race.  It'll be crazy to compete in a pool again, but my heart is pulling me back to the chlorine again.

This picture gives me HUGE butterflies!!!
And there you have it... my 2017.  More than anything, I would love to have a year where I do not have any true injuries.  Little niggles are fine... but please, running gods, no fractures, tears, or anything else that keeps me from what I love to do for more than a few days!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Race Recaps: Hot Chocolate 15K + Rudolph 5K

I've realllllly procrastinated on writing my race recaps for my two most recent races, the Hot Chocolate 15K and the Westerville Sertoma Rudolph 5K.  I am going to go ahead and wrap both races into one semi-quick recap.  I have to say, I feel bad doing this, as both races were pretty epic in their own ways.  However, I need to get this blog moving a bit, and I can't move on without reflecting on what I've accomplished.

First up, the Hot Chocolate 15K, which was on 11/20/16.  I ran this race with my friend Amy last year and had a great time running a "comfortable" 8:00/mile pace.  We both agreed that we would definitely run it again.  When the opportunity to pace the race with the national pace group Beast Pacing arose, I immediately jumped at the opportunity!  Pacing is something that I have done for friends in training hundreds of times, and in a few races as well.  But to be a "real" pacer... that would be a dream come true!  Originally I was assigned to the 9:00/mile, but when I got to the race, the lead pacer asked if I would take the 9:30 slot, as that runner had to cancel at the last minute.  I had no issues at all moving to the slower time, as in all fairness, 9:30 was a more appropriate "easy pace" for me.

Picture of me pacing taken by my friend!

With pacing, your primary goal is to finish at the time projected based on your assigned mile split.  For me, 9:30/mile would be approximately 1:28:32.  I was super-thrilled to finish in a 1:27:56.  It is best to be less than a minute faster than your goal when pacing, and even better to be within 30 seconds.... never, ever slower, though.  I think I should be pleased with being just 36 seconds away!

The secondary goal for pacing is to support and motivate those around you.  I was excited that Amy and Tamara (and eventually Allison, who started in a different corral than we did) wanted to run with me!  They didn't need motivating, though--9:30/mile is a really easy pace for all of us.  I wasn't sure if anyone around me was really "using" me as a pacer, but when I proclaimed that fact out loud at about 6 miles into the race, a man nearby said that he indeed was trying to stick with us!  I had to remind myself that while we were incessantly chatting, others around us had to truly conserve energy in order to maintain the pace we were at.

As a pacer, I got a free entry into the race, and of course got the delicious post-race snacks (chocolate fondue dipping sauce, marshmallows and other yummy treats to dip in it, and--duh--hot chocolate), as well as the race medal.  It was incredibly cold that day, and while I felt fine before and during the race, as soon as we finished I immediately got cold from my sweat.  By the time I grabbed my bag from gear check, I was feeling like I might get hypothermia!  The quarter-mile walk back to my card didn't help either.

Oh, the funniest thing about this race: my medal!  Can you spot the issue?!

On to the other race that I recently ran, the Westerville Sertoma Rudolph 5K (12/4/16).  I blame Tamara for this one.  She recently had surgery and was bugging me to try a 5K. I think she was projecting her own feelings about missing running/racing onto me LOL!  I honestly haven't raced a 5K in over 2.5 years.  I just plain don't enjoy them. No clue why... well, maybe a clue.  They are HARD.  Like freaky hard.  You have to go basically all-out for 3 miles.  How fun is THAT?!  You can't even talk or really breathe.  Yeah.  Not fun.  I asked my triathlon coach Betsy what she thought of the idea, thinking she might say that it wasn't smart, given that I'd done zero speed work since before my injury in April.  To my chagrin, she was all for it--as long as I promised to go all out.  What the what?!  Before I could back down, I texted my speedy-as-hell friend Amanda to see if she'd pace me.  She immediately agreed, and registered for the race a day or two later.  Then she texted me and asked me why I hadn't registered yet (my name wasn't on the list of those who had registered)!  Oops.. I "forgot" LOL!  I registered and started to prepare myself for the big day.

The main thing I knew I needed to do: a speed workout. Amanda asked me my goal time, and I honestly had no idea what I could do in the way of speed.  My 5K PR from July 2014 (the last time I raced a 5K) was a 23:02.  I didn't know if I was even in shape to run that time. let alone faster.  So, I asked another super-speedy pal, Jen (my tri training buddy) if she would do a speed workout with me to gauge where I was at.  She, of course, agreed as well--Jen loves to run fast, and also loves to run with friends, so my request was a no-brainer for her.  We set out the day after Thanksgiving to do a 2 mile warm-up, 2 miles at a sub-8 pace (just to prove to myself I could do it), and a 1 mile cool-down.  One thing about Jen... she's not the greatest at pacing.  She's just too darn fast!  Our two miles were 7:31 and 7:29!  So much for a sub-8... we crushed that!  I will say, while this run was HARD, it did wonders for my confidence. I was pretty sure I could at least PR my 5K based on how this run went.  

Moving ahead to race day.  It was a relatively good day, weather-wise.  Temps were in the low 40's, and only a slight wind.  We ended up feeling the wind on our way out (where there was an ever-so-slight downhill), so it was nice to have it at our backs on the way home.  Oh, I didn't mention... this course was an out-and-back.  1.55 miles, turn around, run back.  I love courses like this!  It was especially awesome that it was literally in my backyard.  Well, close enough... the race started at St. Paul, where I attended school for 8 years, and ran through uptown Westerville, my hometown.  The turn-around was maybe 1.5 miles from my house.  So, yeah, it was close!  

Amanda and I met up with our friend Jess for a short warm-up of about 1.5 miles.  I was pretty nervous!  I hadn't ran a running race (except ones for fun) in a year, and I really had no clue how this was going to go.  The race start time was pretty odd... 2 PM!  Who runs a race at 2 PM??  It was scheduled that way because State Street (the road that the race was taking place on) was already closed for the city's holiday parade. The parade started immediately after we finished the race. Therefore, we actually had people to cheer us on for the entire time--another cool perk of this race!  

On to the race!  I had decided to cover up my watch for the race, as I tend to "get in my head" when I see the numbers.  I felt pretty good the first mile, but also pretty nervous.  I knew it was only going to get harder.  My first mile split ended up being a 7:02.  When I told Amanda after the race that it had been my fastest mile ever, and I'd never been under 7 minutes, she yelled at me for talking to her during that mile (admittedly, it was only a few yes's and no's!), and told me if she'd known that, we'd have gone a 6:59, LOL!

Mile two was out to the turn-around and back.  I was hating life by this point, which is typical for me during a 5K.  Jess pulled away from us--this I knew would happen.  Amanda stuck close, about 10 yards ahead of me.  I loved listening to her banter with the spectators, encourage other runners, etc.  I tried super hard to just GO, but my legs weren't really responding.  Mile two's split was a 7:25, although if you had asked me during the race, I'd have guess at least 8:00. I felt slooooooow.  

Mile three was all about mentally staying in the game.  Jess was way ahead by this time.  I just wanted to be done.  Amanda was busy high-fiving the kiddos who were cheering us on.  I did enjoy seeing friends who were cheering, but otherwise I just couldn't wait to see that finish arch.   The final mile was a 7:28.  It also felt extremely slow.  When I commented to Betsy that I just couldn't get my legs to move any faster, she replied, "Well, you haven't trained them to."  Touche!  But she was right.

I ended up finishing with a nice PR of 22:15.  I was as exhausted as I usually am when I finish a race, but was excited to celebrate with Jess (who scored her own PR!) and Ellen (who finished about a minute after me with HER own PR!).  Tamara was there to cheer me on into the finish as well, which was super sweet. I would like to see what I could do in a 5K with some actual speed work under my belt... but not anytime soon LOL!

Post-race with Amanda and Jess!