Thursday, May 27, 2010

An inspirational moment

It can sometimes be difficult to continue on after a bad race, but that's what separates the great runner from the average runner. The ability to continue to pursue something challenging after a failure is what brings great successes.

A few words for me to think about as I prepare for my 10-miler.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Free Time

With the Soldier Field 10 Mile three days away, I'm in full taper mode this week. This is the time that I most look forward to during my training, yet it often times leaves me feeling more tired then usual. Strange how this works that when mileage is suddenly cut back, my body begins to feel completely exhausted from a five miler. Lactic acid builds up in my legs leaving them with a lingering feeling of tightness and an unusual heaviness.

There are many benefits of tapering besides the obvious. While its a wonderful thing to step back from the weeks, or maybe even months, of training to think about all the hard work done to get to the current time period and fitness also leaves me with down time. Cutting my mileage nearly in half this week has provided me with more free time then usual. It can sometimes be a scary thought to me to think that I have to take it easy and relax, but this week has been wonderful.

So far with my new found freedom from the pavement I have spent my time catching up on sleep, doing laundry, straightening up my home, and finally cleaning out my email inbox after months of neglect. With the commitment that running 60+ miles a week takes on my schedule, I often times find myself rushing around to take care of basic tasks. This week I've made a commitment to myself to enjoy my free time, take a yoga class, read the articles in Runners World that I've been needing to get to, and maybe even bake some cookies for my husband.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One last tempo

Summer is just around the corner, and I'm excited! I've been anticipating this moment since the passing of the Indian Summer.

There is something about running when its warm and sunny out that just makes it so much more enjoyable. Yesterday I let the summer fever get the best of me. Wednesdays are typically my speed training day of the week, and yesterday was no different with a 5 mile tempo at a 6:59 pace. I started out with a 15 minute warm up, and then was off. Speed work is always somewhat difficult for me, and requires a fairly serious warm-up. With the sun shining brightly and providing a comforting warmth, my muscles seemed to loosen up fairly quickly.

I felt strong and was keeping pace through the workout. It can be difficult for me to keep my mind focused during the last few minutes of a tempo run. In the last five minutes I could feel the burning in my legs, but kept telling myself to press on. In the last maybe two minutes or so, I found myself pressing so hard that I thought that I was going to lose my breakfast.

Nonetheless I made it through yesterday feeling strong and powerful. With only nine days until the Soldier Field 10 Mile, I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the challenge ahead.

Happy almost summer!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Illinois Marathon

On May 1st, my husband, our two dogs and myself all packed up our car and drove down to Champaign-Urbana for the Illinois Marathon. This was the second year for this event and it drew over 10,000 runners competing in the 5k, half marathon as well as the full marathon. I competed in the half marathon and the race provided a fairly competitive field this year as compared to last year.

In the inaugural year for this event it lack organization as well as some well thought out faux paus for a race. With a better organizational system this year, as well as I'm sure many considered suggestions by participants, I would say that this race was an overwhelming success. This year they offered a large area with Port-o-Potties that were separated away from the starting line, compared to last year when the toilets were facing directly into the racers at the starting line. At the aid stations along the course, they eliminated the bottled water that they were offering last year and stuck with the paper cups which in my opinion is a much safer and environmentally friendly choice. The post celebration party, or the 27th mile as it was referred to, was a nice addition to the perks of the race.

While the race was a great event and I'm grateful for being able to participate, my poor performance has left me with a bittersweet memory of this race.

For this particular race, I begun training in January and spent a total of 16 intense weeks focused on my physical progress. As I mentioned in my previous post, the stars all seemed to align for me creating a perfect storm of catastrophe. While I did feel this about four weeks before the race, I continued on still holding faith in myself and my ability to perform and run a great race.

The day before the race was awful for me, and not how I would typically spend my pre-race preparations. We had a long drive from Chicago with two dogs, checked into a stinky and somewhat dingy hotel room, our dogs had a meltdown as we attempted to leave the hotel to go to the expo so I ended up attending by myself where I endured traffic that left me feeling anxious and stressed, had a pre-race dinner from Panera that was less then scrumptious, couldn't sleep in the uncomfortable bed and feared that I was going to contract some type of virus if my skin touched the sheets, and I woke up about every hour or so either because I thought that I was going to oversleep or the dogs were bouncing around the room making all kinds of long story short i woke feeling as stressed and anxious as the day before.

When we got to the race I had a million things going through my mind. I found it difficult to focus on what my purpose for that morning was, and I kept thinking about how all of my joints and muscles felt some what tired and achy. Nonetheless, I started the race feeling alright for the first three miles. The weather was odd that morning. When I woke it was humid, but breezy and quite overcast. By the time mile three hit, it became warm and sunny with the lingering humidity that made my skin sticky and added extra perspiration.

By mile six I was ready to call it quits. I had completely checked out mentally and begun wondering what the hell I was doing. There was a battle going on inside my mind of the discomfort and how poorly I was running. I gave up on myself. I walked on several different occasions where I contemplated pulling out of the race entirely. After slowing my mile pace way down and walking every so often, I had allowed myself to fall so off pace that I just wanted it all to be over.

This was a new feeling for me. I've run many races in my life, and I had never felt so defeated. While I know that I'm in control of myself and my reactions to challenges, I felt as though there was nothing left inside of my spirit to finish the race. But I somehow gathered myself and crossed the finish line in 1:39:02. A whooping 9+minutes off of my race plan.

While this race was awful and I feel like I'd rather forget it then dwell upon it, today I told myself that it's important to take sometime to think about what happened. Learn from it. Move on.

It's important to remind myself that successes would lack any substantial meaning if they came easily. Worthy achievements do not just happen, they are earned from an honest days work.

Daily Challenges

Every runner feels the constant desire for improvement, and I would not consider myself exempt to this yearning to be stronger and faster.

I've been refusing to allow myself to reflect back upon my most recent race and the sequence of events that led up to the race in the weeks before. While I had my aspirations high, and spent many days out in the cold Chicago winter battling the wind and ice, I let myself down.

While it is a very vague thing to say that I did not meet my own expectations, there is much truth to this. Every race poses a challenge to each of its competitors. The whole principle of a race is to get from point A to point B in the quickest time possible while battling ones own demons. I've never been much of what I like to refer to as a "head-case", meaning the little voice inside of us that feels the pain and discomfort slowly eat away at the focus and self-awareness needed to successfully push us to challenge our self. Yet lately I have been finding myself in a runners rut where I am preventing myself from achieving the successes which I am capable of.

Yes I am preventing myself from success. Period.

I have put in the work, I have done the mileage, I have eaten all of the right foods, and I have spent many hours of my day going over mile paces and splits in my head. Yet it all has become a waste.

The month or so before my most recent race was a difficult one for me. I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled, where two were severely impacted and led to a very difficult recovery. In my attempts to keep myself rested, I found myself restless despite being exhausted from working extremely strange and inconsistent hours at my job with long stretches between the occasional day off here and there. I skipped many of my weight lifting and yoga dates thinking that this would leave me feeling rested, instead it left me feeling weak and excessively tight. And I allowed my head to be filled with the stresses of my daily life, leaving my head feeling constantly cloudy with exhaustion of the over processing of my thoughts.

While I am well award of the ability of my self destructive ways, running has always been my release from that. Seeing myself give up on something that I have spent so much time pining towards is a difficult reflection for me. So, has to be told that I have turned myself into a "head-case" case. The avoidance of this is no longer within my abilities, and the truth that I am a runner and I constantly battle the good and bad in my mind must be dealt with.

Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start where the previous days stressors needn't be overly indulged or processed in my mind. So onto tomorrow.