Saturday, April 30, 2011

A New Foam Roller and a Progressive Run Success

After two weeks filled with countless mediocre runs, yesterday my legs finally felt like they are back to normal. 16 mile progressive run with beautiful weather=an amazing start to my day.

To make my weekend even better, my new trigger point foam roller came in the mail. Only one day with it and I already love it.

I'm still unfamiliar with the best uses for the roller when it comes to full body uses, but my achilles and calves are already reaping the benefits.

Happy Saturday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Runners Guilt

Thank you to all of you that sent me heartfelt responses to my last post. I realize that my words were not very up-beat and inspiring, but unfortunately I was quite upset and needed an opportunity to vent. So thank you for still reading my thoughts and not passing judgement on what a terrible person I am.

This week mind has been plagued with stressful thoughts about my workouts and upcoming races. Yesterday morning I woke up and felt so overwhelmed by the pressure I was putting on myself that I lashed out on my husband for requesting a ride to work because it was raining that left me with feelings of guilt and selfishness and made me think what a terrible wife I was being. Was my workout really more important then my hubby getting to work dry? No, but for some reason I made it out to be. I had a early morning meltdown and basically needed to put myself in a time-out, and I did. Wednesdays are always a speed work day for me and yesterday I had a scheduled 6 mile tempo at my 1/2 marathon goal pace. I opted out of the workout and instead took the day off to get a grip on myself.

There are a million things that I could blame my recently sour mood on (which has been quite apparent in my last few postings), but I instead would like to own up to my jerkyness and move on. Lately my focus in life has been on me and my desires which leaves me being a terrible wife, friend, sister, daughter, and Christian. I have let my goals take the foreground in my life and everything else become blurry in the background. Things shouldn't always be about me, so why do I make the world revolve around my desires? Because this is my greatest flaw.

My mind is in need of a time out to reflect on all the greatness I have in my life.

With all of the things going on, I can often forget about the greatness that surrounds me and inspires me to be a better person. So thank you D for your unending support and love. Your joy in watching me embark on my journey makes me love you that much more. You are a wonderfully supportive husband that lets me spend a ridiculous amount of money on races and running gear and is always on the sidelines cheering me on. You push me to go one step further in life and make me want to be a better woman that loves more. Your ability to deal with me everyday makes you a saint, and quite possibly the most patient man in the world.

I hate it when I'm blinded by my selfishness and don't pay enough attention to my family. These people are important and special to me yet sometimes I act like it is too inconvenient for me to leave my city bubble and drive 45 miles to spend time with them. I am grateful for these people and need to stop being a boob. Besides, running wouldn't be as special if I didn't have an audience.

My doggies bring a massive amount of joy to my life. They love me no matter how I look or smell, and are ecstatic to see me when I walk in the door. Maybe I should repay them more for their love with more dates to the beach and park rather then trying to fit in a few extra miles for myself.

It is important for me to achieve success in life and running, but what good is it all if I cannot enjoy life with my loved ones?

It ain't no good.

Is it normal to have "runners guilt", or am I just off my rocker?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Etiquette Lesson

Etiquette is defined by Wikipedia as "the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group". While at times I may fail to demonstrate proper etiquette when I get angry and swear like a sailor or fail to RSVP to events in a timely manor, I do try my hardest to be as polite as possible at all times and I consciously remind myself to be ladylike.

Well today any ounce of grace which I had flew right out the window after a rather strange encounter with a biker on the lakefront path during my run. For those of you who are not familiar with the Chicago lakefront, there is a beautiful 26 mile two lane pedestrian path that is snugly wrapped around the lake. For the most part this path is an uninterrupted strip of limestone and pavement that is meant for runners, bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, and those who just want to be able to take in the beauty of the city. Because this is the longest strip for pedestrians in the city, it can become crowed and congested in the summer months and on weekends. I tend to do 99% of my runs on this path because it is the safest place for a runner in the city and frequent during all types of weather at all different times of the year. I feel comfortable with the unwritten rules of the path; stay to the right, when passing announce yourself properly and nicely, and if there is congestion on the path to adjust my pace to not harm other people. Simple enough right?

I did my easy 9 miler on the path today, and the path did have more people then usual that were trying to take in the nice weather while it lasted. As I was scooting along minding my own business I heard a female biker from behind yelling "move over to your right, biker coming through". So I moved all the way over on the path. As the biker got closer she begun to yell again that I need to move over because she is coming in fast. She then whizzes by me clipping my left elbow with her handle bars and then turns around to say some choice words to me and ends it all with a flip of the bird. Yikes.

What the hell was all I could think to myself, and then proceeded to say a few choice words of my own about how rude she was and how persons of intellect don't curse random people out and flip them the bird. To say that I was angry would be an understatement, I was P.O.ed. Not to be jerky to bikers, but persons on foot will always have the right-a-way over a bike, especially when you are coming from behind them. And there really is never a good reason to yell and curse a person out who is minding their own business.

So that all being said, I thought that it would be an appropriate time to put into writing what I consider proper "athlete to athlete" conduct when using shared spaces.

If you are a biker, do not hit others with your bike. It is rude and there really is no reason for it. Matter of fact, do not touch anyone in an unwelcome way...biker, runner, skater, walker, whoever and wherever.

Announce yourself graciously when passing others. Do not yell that they need to get out of your way because you are coming through. You and your workout aren't any more important then anyone else. We all have equal rights to public spaces.

If there is no room for you to pass those that are moving at a slower pace then please be patient and wait for a safe time to pass.

Unless you are the Micheline Man, you do not need the entire Chicago lakefront trail. Please share kindly with others.

Just to throw this one in there, if you are running and a runner is attempting to pass you please allow them to do so. We all run at different paces, and there is no shame in letting a female pass you if she is moving at a quicker pace. Ruining your workout and hers so she can appropriately pass you is no good for anyone.

I am not perfect and my etiquette often lacks appropriation for a situation, but I think it is important for everyone to have a certain amount of self-awareness. Please be courteous, this is all I ask.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One Craptastic Run

The Easter Bunny made an unexpected visit this morning for creatures of both the human and furry type in my home. Accompanying the treats was also a nice card from the hubster congratulating me on some rather exciting news that I'm not quite ready to share yet, but soon...and no I am not pregnant. I had to spend my evening at work missing family activities of the day and decided to drowned my woes by eating way more candy then I should have. If I wake up tomorrow and my teeth have fallen out I won't be surprised.

Easter is a wonderful day for Christians to remember the cross and what Jesus endured for our salvation, candy is just a little added perk.

Yesterday I did a 16 mile progressive run in the early am. I was up and out the door within 15 minutes and decided to forgo breakfast, bad idea. My stomach wanted food, and by the time I felt this I was already 4 miles into my run without any type of fuel handy and decided to continue on. Lactate built up in my legs quickly, and it was extremely difficult for me to progress the pace as my run went on. Hunger pangs were overwhelming me and my energy level was at about a 2, so I cut the run a mile short to head home for fuel. I think that it was quite possibly the most challenging long run that may have ever had, all because I chose not take any type of fuel before. Lesson learned.

The difficult runs make me appreciate those truly great runs where all the stars seem to align perfectly and I feel like I'm gliding. Man I love those days, and REJOICE when I have them.

Nonetheless I'm moving on to next week.

Monday: 9 miles easy, weights and yoga

Tuesday: 9 miles easy

Wednesday: 9 miles total, 6 miles tempo at 6:50 and weights

Thursday: 8 miles easy

Friday: 16 miles progressive, last 4 miles at race pace (take 2) and weights

Saturday: 8 miles easy, meet up with Team World Vision

Friday, April 22, 2011

Am I getting old?

One of my coworkers this week told me that I no longer classify as "young". While he also said that I am not "old", he said that I have surpassed the state of being young and I am now just a married women with my days numbered. Um okay? How uplifting right?

Like I said back here, I feel that age is a state of mind. My mind tells me that my body may be 27 but my vigor for life is that of a younger being inspired by what adventures and goodness may be lurking around the corner. Some days I do feel like I am aging and that my biological clock is ticking, that I should have kids by now, my career should be figured out, I should have traveled the world more, and that I should own land. Yet I am content with where I am in life and do not feel pressured to do things because others my age are. I am me and I value all the things that I have been blessed with.

My workouts this week haven't been going totally as planned. It took my body nine days to bounce back from my 8k, NINE DAYS. What the heck? I have never taken so long to recover from any race, not even a marathon. Yikes, maybe again it is the age thing or maybe its just because I have been running my tail off training for my May races. 60 mile weeks for a half and a 10 miler is a rather big commitment, especially when a lot of those miles are quick. With three weeks left I feel like my body is getting stronger even if I have mysteriously put on a few pounds in the past two months (again maybe the age thing? IDK).

On Sunday I sit down and spend a bit of time thinking about all the workouts I'm going to be doing the next week and on what days I would like to do them. By Tuesday I have completely changed everything up for various reasons. This week the weather has been playing with me a bit, as was my hip. While the hip is back to it's usual self, the weather is still icky. Truthfully I don't mind running in the rain, I actually find it somewhat therapeutic. But after a very snowy and long winter, I am ready to move on to sunny warm days.

So when I see this as the forecast for the day:

I change my workout...AGAIN. My Team World Vision run will have to wait until next week, which is okay because they are only on base mileage now. I am just not in the mood for a 16 miler progressive run in the rain today because I don't want to be in wet clothes for almost two hours today.

Yes I am hitting up the treadmill today, so 16 miler I will see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Garbage Mind

Today my mind is filled with useless garbage and lots of random thoughts about random things.

I need a vacation. Not one of those long weekend type of vacations, a real vacation with a time out from work and responsibility to relax and get myself together. I feel like my life is a mess lately and that there just are not enough hours in the day to take care of all the necessary tasks that I take on. This has created a waterfall affect that has left me spilling things over to proceeding days and feeling like I am not making progress in the necessary areas of my life.

Spring where are you? Last week it was 70 degrees, this week it has been snowing and cold. I had to break out my winter gear again, and I can't take it anymore. The gloominess has me feeling groggy and antsy. I am ready to say goodbye to my trusty North Face winter gear and hello to bathing suits, the beach, and of course my parents lake house. On top of that I am sick of doing a million loads of laundry of running gear.

My hip feels weird. I say weird because it isn't painful, or even necessarily uncomfortable, just weird. Today I should have done mile repeats but my hip was doing this weird thing where it felt like the tendons were pulling the leg muscles oddly. With the wind, horizontal rain, cool temps and this odd sensation I decided that maybe tomorrow will be a better day for a speed workout. Annoying muscles, do what I tell you damn it.

When will it be warm? My house has turned into a greenhouse. I've got plants in the bathtub and on the window sills and it is making me crazy. Our apartment is dinky and we only have one bathroom, so when there are plants living in it that have to be moved multiple times throughout the day and it makes me want to scream. While I look forward to fresh organic produce grown by moi, I don't like pots filled with dirt occupying my space. Dirt is not my friend because it's well...dirty.

I wouldn't be honest with myself if I didn't mention the brief moment of self-doubt about my upcoming half that I had last night. To achieve my sub 1:30 half goal I will have to run 13 6:50 miles, IN A ROW. While I knew this when I set my sights on this daunting task months ago, for some reason last night I could not stop questioning my abilities. My mind has since come back to reality a wee bit after reminding myself (multiple times) that I am a realistic person who has set a realistic and achievable goal. This is MY goal, and MY body can do it if I just focus and not be Mrs. Crazy Pants.

Yesterday was an exciting day for the running world with all of the successes at Boston. I was over come with emotion with the WR, Ryan Hall not being such a head case and setting an AR, Desiree Davila finally getting the recognition that she deserves for being such a fierce competitor, Kara Goucher getting a PR, and sad with the fact that I wasn't one of the organized 27,000 registrants that sat by their computer on October 18th clicking away to guarantee a spot in the race. Grrr for my terrible procrastinating habits. My day will come again.

Yikes I'm on edge, sorry D. Please forgive my crazy rantings.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Twelve years ago...

Twelve years ago today I had my first date with the man who is now my husband when we were freshmen in high school. We have spent the past dozen years building a life and making more memories then we could have ever imagined together. Thanks D for being an amazing husband and my best friend.

Rockbridge Young Life camp 2001

Junior Homecoming 2000 Senior Prom 2002 August 18, 2007. The day we wed. And of course this morning at Floriole Cafe eating the best almond croissant known to man before you had a laughing spat in the middle of the sermon at church.
Heres to a lifetime of more great memories.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The hay has almost filled the barn

This week my body has been feeling quite off. After my race on Sunday I decided not to take a day off because this week was filled with all easy miles, and my body is angry with me for doing so. While I really wanted a PR on Sunday, I also wanted to use the race as a tempo workout for the week and I thought that my muscle would rebound fairly well. They had me fooled.

Today my legs still feel a bit stiff. I registered to run the Chicago Marathon this fall with Team World Vision and this morning was the first group run, unfortunately I missed it. Instead I opted to hit the elliptical at the gym and give my legs a little break so that on Monday I will hopefully feel fresh once again. Sometimes I think that I should just take a cue from Chase and spend the majority of my day in bed draped in blankets.

Four weeks until my half, and next week looks to have some fairly decent miles on the books. Time to get the hay stacked all neatly in the barn.

Monday: 8 miles easy, weights

Tuesday: 5x1600's @6:20 pace with 800 jogging recoveries

Wednesday: 8 miles easy recovery, weights, yoga

Thursday: 16 miles progressive, 1/2 marathon goal pace for last 4 miles

Friday: 8 miles easy

Saturday: 8 miles easy, meet up with Team World Vision

Sunday: OFF

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Crazy Mind

3 days later and my calves are still a bit tender...what the heck?

Sundays 8k has left me with warm feelings of the progress my body is making and that I am traveling down the right path. No negative thoughts, no self-doubt, no angry-tear filled rants about how my race didn't go as planned and that my life has now lost all meaning. There is no longer any room in my mind for the toxic thoughts that once left a negative dusting over every inch of my soul that I allowed to suck me into a black hole of self pity for a poor race performance. Instead I would rather spend my time reflecting back upon a race with a sense of pride for my accomplishment and instead learn from the missteps of the day.

This may seem obvious and clear to others, but for me this is a BIG STEP down a road that I haven't ventured down much. My mental history after a race has been to beat myself down about all of my errors in the race until I finally succumb to self-defeat about how my efforts were subpar and my performance was less then noteworthy. Why would I do this to myself? Who knows, but it has gone on too long and without a positive change I was limiting myself in every area of my life. All of lifes experiences and accomplishments should be reveled in and a sense of joy should overcome ones soul when a mile marker is passed. Life is a learning process, I'm just glad I learned this NOW and not when I'm 80.

I'm not saying that I'm going to stand on the top of Sears Tower (or Willis Tower depending on who you're talking to) and shout to the world that I overcame my fears of positivity and blew my expectations out of the water, cause that would just be silly. But I am finally comfortable saying that I had fun and I gave my best effort on Sunday. PERIOD.

So what if I stood in the back of the elite corral and unintentionally added about 5 seconds to my time, went out WAY too fast for the first mile, stopped for water at mile 4 where I literally came to a DEAD STOP and I didn't really even need the water, who cares if I didn't hug the curves enough and tacked on a little extra mileage? And yes I did run 17 miles three days before the race in brand new shoes that brought on a slight discomfort to my arches and left my legs feeling drained. It happened. All I can do now is learn from it. On to the next race, the next day, and the next experience.

My Boston Experience

With the 2011 Boston Marathon just around the corner, I have been feeling nostalgic about my Boston experience and thought that it would be nice to share it with you all.

I registered for the Boston Marathon 2008, the day after I ran the Chicago Marathon of 2007. That was the only year in history that the weather conditions in Chicago were so severe that mid way through the marathon the race organizers decided that they had to shut the race down. Yes thats right, the marathon was cancelled about an hour and a half after it started. Ninety degrees with about 90% humidity at the wee hours of the morning caused an immense amount of chaos and panic for the runners and organizers. Things got kind of crazy for awhile. Aid stations ran out of supplies, runners were dropping like flies, helicopters were flying overhead announcing over a speaker that runners need to walk and the course was rerouted and cut short to ensure the safety of all runners. It was madness.

At $100+ dollars for a marathon, it takes a lot for me to throw in the towel. But by mile 3 I had already sweat out everything in me, the heat was making my legs feel heavy, and I could not hold a steady smooth cadence. Thoughts were rapidly producing in my mind for those first 9 miles about what was best for me, and at the 9 mile marker I finally said to myself "this is not worth it today". There are a lot of things I would do in life to challenge myself or to receive a medal, but that day I decided that the conditions were not worth a medal. My safety and well being trumped the thoughts of goal achievement and a sparkly medal.

Feeling like a quitter, the very next day I decided to register for the Boston Marathon of 2008 (those were the days when registration wouldn't close in a measly 8 hours). It wasn't until a few days later that I received my acceptance email to the race that I decided to tell my husband that we would be spending several days that upcoming spring in Boston and I would be racing the most coveted and famous race in America. Bill Bowerman in Without Limits said that "it is easier to beg forgiveness then ask permission" and I heeded his advice, and my husband eventually got over my impulsive decision.

After such a stinky race at Chicago in 2007, I wanted vengeance and to have payoff for all of those grueling miles my legs put in. My fitness became my focus, and peaking at Boston was all I could think about. Instead of taking time off after training for Chicago I opted to continue pressing on through the fall months thinking that I would then be in the shape of my life when I begun training for Boston in the winter. That was quite possibly the biggest mistake I had ever made in my entire life.

Naturally I ended up with an injury in week 3 of training that I just could not shake off. Stubborn is my middle name, so I refused to go to a doctor or seek treatment. My knee was constantly in pain and I could barely walk let alone run. Instead of seeking the appropriate treatment, I treated myself and continued to be creative with my training methods. Because running was out of the question, I would instead spend hours a day at the gym on the bike or elliptical. By the time April rolled around I was able to run a bit here and there and decided that I was still going to make my best attempts to run Boston.

My husband thought that I was nuts. I was gimping around everywhere, yet my mind was filled with thoughts of how I was going to cruise up those hills and have a rock star performance in Boston.

Once we arrived to Boston, I felt like my body had magically healed. The beauty of the city had filled my heart with hope and I knew that I would be fine. HA!

The hills killed me. Really killed me. My knee was screaming every time the ground wasn't level, which was basically the entire race. Somehow I made it through the first half running and was under two hours and thought that I would finish under 4 hours. But I didn't. I had to walk up every hill and my quads were screaming at me the last few miles wondering why I was torturing them. My body hated me for what I was doing to it and I crossed the finish in 4:09, my worst marathon time ever.

Boston taught me a lot of lessons that year and it took my body 9 months to bounce back to normal. I was a dope that allowed myself to be blinded by my goals that I refused to adjust. I could have cancelled my trip and waved my registration until the next year, but for some crazy reason I just could not admit that I had an injury...which I very clearly did.

Some of my life lessons from Boston are:

You cannot train for a marathon on a bike or elliptical. There really is no comparison.

Take time off to let your body rest. The human body is not a machine. Joints and muscles are not always as resilient as we think, they need time to rest and repair. Marathon training puts a lot of stress on the body, the best repayment for hard work is rest. Too bad I didn't realize this then.

Always wear sunblock while running, even if it isn't the summer. Tan lines on your legs from cropped spandex and being burnt on one side of your body isn't cute. It took two summers for those ugly tan lines on my upper calves to disappear from the Nike cropped spandex that I wore that was really hard to look cute in dresses.

Goals can be adjusted and there will always be another race. Listening to ones body is difficult, and sometimes we have to admit to defeat. Ignoring discomforts and constant pains will not help the body in the long run. I have decided that I want to be a "forever runner" and not a "right now" runner.

I think that I lost my mind in the early months of 2008, but have since come back down to reality. Boston and I will have a rematch one day when my body is ready for it, and when we do I will cruise over those hills and have the time of my life crushing all of my expectations. Boston will not let me down again because I am now a more sensible women that has a lot more respect for my body and its limits.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shamrock Shuffle Race Recap

Today my day started with a surprise appearance from some of my family members at a very early hour to come out and support me at my race. Best surprise ever, families are awesome!

I felt a bit on edge this morning about starting in the lead pack of runners in a race of this size, but having family there to support me and tell me that me that I am going to rock it and that I have super human speed was the perfect recipe to ease my crazy mind. Starting in the elite corral in a field of 32,427 finishers was pretty cool. Apparently elite racers are cool enough to have their very own warm up area and restrooms, which I was very much appreciative of this morning because I was running a bit behind schedule.

I felt a wee bit out of place in the company of elites. The majority of them were wearing singlets in support of their running clubs and looked amazingly fast, so I made a choice to line up at the very back of the corral. Little did I know at the time that elite athletes go by clock time and not chip time for official finishes, so I unintentionally tacked on at least 5 seconds to my time...whoops.

The race started promptly at 9 a.m. and it was at least 70 degrees and rather humid, almost identical conditions to the Chicago Marathon. But the temp didn't faze me, I was all smiles.

I had a great time and had a PR of 40 seconds. My official time was 32:38, but my garmin said otherwise at 32:33 because of the 5 seconds it took to cross the start and it also let me know that I covered 5.01 miles...whoops again. So I guess hugging those turns could have possibly picked me up another 5 seconds or so.

When I race I am constantly reminding myself to run my own race and not feed off other runners pacing, but today that was a bit of a problem for me. Mile 1 I went out way to fast, and I'm talking almost sub 6...yikes I am not that fast, yet. It caused extra lactic build up in my legs that caught up with me around mile 4. Never in my life have I gone out that fast, I actually have a history of going out way too slow and being too conservative. Today must have been opposite day for me.

I have never been great with speed. 5k's, 8k's, 10k's scare the poop out of me because I have always told myself that there is not a speedy muscle in my body. Today I challenged myself to let that go and find some speed somewhere. Spending the past several weeks focusing on the way I view myself as an athlete and what I am mentally capable of handling proved to be a resourceful way of spending my time. As crazy as it may sound talking to yourself and acknowledging that you have the power to move mountains has a lot of resonance in times of trial. Positivity has wonderful potency.

The best way to celebrate a successful run is to eat as many calories of sugar that your body can hold, which I did with my Ann Sather's cinnamon roll french toast that was filled with a marscapone cream. Yummo.

I finished 455th out of 32,427 people and had a 40 second PR, which I would call a success considering that I decided to forgo any type of taper for this race. The hubster and I went for a 3.25 run/walk after we got home and spent the day enjoying the beautiful weather by stopping into Home Depot for the early stages of our "urban garden" we are working on this week. Basically I had the best day ever, and I look forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gearing Up My Shamrocks

Spring racing season in Chicago has begun for me, whoohoo! Well actually tomorrow it starts, but I am PUMPED!!!

I don't even know if I can put into words my love for race expos, but they are probably the best past time ever. Tons of S.W.A.G., samples everywhere, running products galore, and tons of super pumped runners all in one big convention hall. Quite possibly the best way to spend the afternoon.

When your bib number is 280 out of 40,000...thats kinda a big deal, or at least for me it is. Thats a lot of runners in one race all with the same goal, it will be complete and utter chaos and I cannot contain my excitement!

Are you ready for me Shamrock Shuffle? I'm gonna knock your socks off.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Afternoon Innovation

Yesterday I got me some new kicks.
It was embarrassing when I admitted to the sales guy at Universal Sole that my current pair of shoes had about 600 miles in them. A new pair was long overdue, but life has been busy...actually life has been rather hectic for me lately, and this was just not at the top of my priority list.

The first run in a new pair of shoes is always amazing. I decided yesterday to do my planned 16 miler without paying attention to my watch and just enjoying my afternoon. There was a mysterious haze along the lakefront with a heavy dampness that filled the air, and it was a beautiful way to spend my afternoon.

I ended up clocking in almost 17 miles at an mid 7 pace, which may not have been the best idea. Today my legs feel tired and heavy which I guess means that I shouldn't have gotten too carried away with my new shoes so soon. My feet are awfully temperamental, and I most definitely aggravated my arches yesterday. I have had minor bouts of planter fasciitis in the past with the symptoms coming and going, yesterday was one of the random flare up days that creep up on me every now and again. It can be frustrating trying to figure out how to ease the pain mid-run, but I try my best to make the best use of random resources available in dire situations like this.

My solution for sudden arch pains it to find a round medal posting, one like you would find on a playground, and rub the bottom of my foot over it gently massaging the arch. Works like a charm! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mental Preparations

October 10th, 2010 was my last race. That will be EXACTLY six months ago this Sunday when I venture out for my first race of 2011.
When I look at the gal smiling in this photo from that fateful day six months ago, my heart breaks a little. Smiling on the outside but in shambles on the inside.

Last year I had set a big goal for myself, I wanted to run a 3:15 marathon in the fall. I focused all my physical works on progressing towards this goal. Physically I became an animal racking up more miles at quicker paces then ever before. Mentally I was a hot mess. I let the goal I set for myself to begin to haunt me and hang over me with doubts filling my mind about my abilities. I was in a state of disbelief with myself and felt that even though I set this goal by myself for myself that I was going to fall short and was not amazing enough to pull this off. It was self-sabotage. On race morning I had an emotional breakdown at the starting line and could not pull myself together, and it was all down hill from there. I did not meet my goal and barely made it through the finish.

During all the sweat filled miles I was logging, I forgot one very important part of my training...the mental preparations. Easily forgotten, but a necessary ingredient for success at anything. I would be a liar if I said that I am not nervous to line up behind that line on Sunday, because I am. But this time around I am bringing something with me to the start that I didn't have last October, my composure and a sense of self worth. Keeping oneself mentally together on race morning is a challenge for even the greatest runners and different things work for different people. Quite honestly I do not know what works best for me because I'm a "head case" most of the time, so I have been trying a few different things lately with an optimistic heart.

Visualization. Getting to know the course is a great way to practice how you want to feel on race day. The start and finish are particularly important for me because those tend to be the "make it or break it moments" in my running world. Knowing where the aid stations are, elevation, and tight turns are things that can create anxiety for runners with anticipation. I have been visualizing myself on particular parts of the course and telling myself how I want to feel for this race with hopes that come race morning my mind will be filled with ease about where my legs are leading me.

Mantras. Mantras are a powerful thing. Back a few months ago I blogged about my thoughts on them, and have recently been finding them rather powerful. Telling myself that I am capable of my goal pace and that my legs will let me fly through the streets of Chicago on Sunday has strengthened me in my workouts.

Confidence. It is easy for me to forget on race morning about all the miles and hard work that I had put into my training. With all of the excitement stirring up on race morning I can get very distracted and forget that I am strong and that I have the power to do great things. Believing in myself and appreciating that I set my own goals because of a desire to challenge myself has become a constant reminder for me lately.

Reminders of why I run. I run because I like to and because it is fun, which I know sounds weird to some people but for me it is a pleasant past time. There is no need to be a crazed maniac because this is something I do for enjoyment. Stress is not allowed in fun situations, therefore racing is to be stress-free (this is difficult for me to remember for some crazy reason).

Not every race can be amazing and I understand that, but I want to be able to walk away from the finish line feeling like I gave my best effort and ran my little legs out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Breaking into Elite Running

Shut the front door? Me? Elite? What?

Today I received my confirmation email for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k for this upcoming Sunday. When I opened it I almost had a heart attack. ELITE CORRAL??? FOR REAL??? ME???

So this race is the largest 8k in the world, registration closed at 35,000 runners this year. There are some pretty amazing runners who venture to this race because of the flat fast course, por ejemplo...Deena Kastor holds the American women's 8k record on this course with a speedy 24:36. Super fast right? People like her start in the elite corral, and apparently they start next to average runners like me...who will be coming in about 8 minutes back from Deenas record time.

This is big new for me and I feel nauseated just thinking about being considered fast enough to start alongside elite runners. I mean I have always thought that I was kinda-sorta-a-wee-bit-fast, but never elite. Today my small little world of recreational running for wellness and self-achievement has turned into something slightly bigger. I feel honored, nervous, crazed, and excited all at the same time to be considered one of the luck handful of folks that show up for my favorite race as an "elite" runner.

Yikes. Whoooooooa. Eeeeek. That is weird to say.

While I attempt to wrap my head around this insane new, I also need to remain focused on my upcoming May goals. This weeks marks 11 of 16 in my training cycle for my upcoming half marathon.

Monday: 8 miles on the treadmill at 1% incline

Tuesday: 16 miles progressive

Wednesday: 8 miles easy recovery

Thursday: 8 miles at a steady state pace, strides

Friday: 8 miles easy, strides

Saturday: OFF, EXPO day

Sunday: Shamrock Shuffle 8k

Nothing crazy this week in the plan, about 60 miles without any craziness. Main goal for the week is to keep myself focused (and remain calm) for Sunday and show up to the line strong, speedy, confident, and well prepared without a taper. I'm not worried, as I have forgone a taper several times in the past and raced my way to some PR's. Big note for me is to heed my hubby's advice to "not psyche myself out crazy" which I have a tendency of doing. Dually noted hubs.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

High Mileage and Long Distances

Yesterday my latest Runner's World mag came in the mail with one of my most favorite runners EVER on the cover...Mrs. Kara Goucher! My first thought when I looked at the cover was 'my gosh thats a lot of bling to be running with!' My hubby has banned me from wearing anything diamond while working out after a certain oopsies moment that I had about a year back where my engagement ring became a tragic casualty to my clumsiness. But in all seriousness this girl looks seriously amazing after having a baby only six months ago, really she has assured me that there is hope to still look beautiful in ones body after birthing a babe. This week has been my highest mileage week since last fall when I was training for the Chitown marathon. I racked up 60 miles this week and I am feeling tired yet strong and light on my feet. Yesterday I did a progressive 16 miler in beautiful weather along the lakefront and down Navy Pier. True it was raining, but there was a very light breeze off the lake and the air had a spring warmth that my soul has been craving.
My run started at an 8 pace with the last 4 miles clocking in at sub 7 pace. Yesterday I also learned that it is really uncomfortable to try to make it through an almost two hour run with a full bladder...I wouldn't recommend trying this. I cannot wait until the city opens up the bathrooms and turns on the water fountains along the lakefront.

My Sunday will be filled with a few hours of work in the early a.m. hours and then dinner with the in laws cooked my none other then myself, followed by the best rum cake ever and finally cracking open that new Runner's World issue. All the fixings for a perfect Sunday.

One week until the Shamrock Shuffle 8k!