Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Final Countdown

I think it's 11 days until the Madison Marathon? Yes. (I just checked.) This race feels so different because I'm not carrying on about it nonstop on social media. I'm still a firm believer in making your goals known but honestly, after all the buildup I gave Lakefront, I'm over the blow-by-blow countdown... for now at least. :)

So what is my goal again, exactly? I said earlier that I recover quickly and that remains true. After 10 days of rest and only easy/recovery runs, I initialed Project Run All the Hills. This was another 10 days of practicing every incline I could get my hands (or feet) on- which culminated with the relay in Door County last weekend. (That fast, flat, Monster Run 5K was stuck in there as well.) Now I've got two solid weeks of taper- with a little bit of speed sharpening tomorrow but otherwise rest, rest, and MOAR REST. I'm definitely not trying to get faster at this point, but rather I'd like to ride this current training cycle out just a little bit farther.

What was I saying? Oh yes, GOALS! Um... the #1 goal is still to Have Fun. Honest to jeebus if that is all that happens on November 9th then I will be nothing less than happy to end the marathon season on a good note. While looking at some pace charts though (and taking into consideration my recovery level) I think that even starting out slower than normal I can still go for a PR.


Here's the thing: I've been shooting for the 3:33 to 3:40 (BQ) range for months, but what is my actual personal best? 3:45. 

That's a whole 5 minutes of time I've been forgetting about.

I feel pretty solid about going for that. At Lakefront, once I knew a BQ was sailing away I shut down mentally. It was all or nothing. I shake my head at that nonsense way of thinking now. Tsk.

And if by some freak of nature the hilly course in Madison doesn't fry my legs by mile 18, will I kick it up a notch? Sure. I've met myself before. But if the opposite happens and I end up only being able to muster a slow jog, I'm going to soak up every last shuffle with a hap-hap-happy smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On the Playlist: Part 7

I know that "Stronger" is often on a lot of people's playlists but "The Sun Will Rise" is the song that speaks to me.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall 50 Relay Recapping

Another Fall 50- but from the relay perspective this time! I swore to only run trail 50s after how bad my IT bands felt on the road last year but the relay was a super fun (and challenging) experience from start to finish.

                                                                        Team Hodor:

Yep, we were a Game of Thrones team. Ygritte, Hodor and Daenerys Targaryen had a blast from Gill's Rock to Sturgeon Bay. Not everyone got the costumes (i.e. Are you guys the Hunger Games?) but the people who did get it were really into it. At one point a guy ran to catch up to me and said, "I just wanted to say I ran with the Khaleesi for a little bit." Heh. I suppose it could have been creepy but it actually wasn't.

My favorite was Bran riding along on Hodor's back:

My goal for this race (other than to have fun) was to take it somewhat easy on the pace but to attack all the hills. Yow, a couple of them were brutal! When I did the solo 50 last year I walked every incline so I really wanted to challenge myself in a different way this year. I walked for about 15-20 seconds at the top of the biggest hill but otherwise I felt pretty darn strong out there. I'm happy some of the hill work I've been doing lately seems to be paying off! Luckily there were a lot of downhills as well so I could airplane arm it on the way back down. 

                                                      Handing off to Sara. *pew pew*

After the race we stayed over in Sturgeon Bay another night drinking beer in bed at the Comfort Inn because that's how Team Hodor rolls. In Ultimate Style.

Between this weekend and the Monster Run weekend I'm officially feeling back on top. Spending time with friends has helped bring me back out of the funk I was in after Lakefront. It's nice to know I have good people on my team. Now I've just got a couple more adventures planned before this year is over! I'm excited to finish 2014 on a high note.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#TBT Fall 50 2013

Me and Ro at the Fall 50 finish last year. My IT bands were busted for a week but I was so happy to run with her that day. I'll be there again this weekend, this time running the relay!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monster Running

I had the best weekend! This was much needed too after a pretty "blah" week. Saturday afternoon Ava and I got dressed up for the Monster Run:

 Rainbow Dash and the TARDIS

Ava did the half mile Kids Dash with her friend Grace and they put on a show at the finish line:

Wings out!

I was proud of her for participating because really, running isn't her thing. However she wanted to rock her costume and hang out at the post-race party so she put up with the whole running part. I believe her words were something like, "We ran really fast at the start but then we got down the street and were all like UGH RUNNING IS THE WORST." Totally been there. 

After the Kids Dash I ran in the 5.5K race. (I know, I know,  a 5.5K? Huh?) Get this though- I won second place overall female! FULL DISCLOSURE: This was totally a fun run and there were obviously not a bunch of speedsters at this race. Still it felt super good to run at the front! When I was heading back after the turnaround I was all by myself and I got a few "GO TARDIS!" cheers from people. That was neat. Also I think if it had been an actual 5K distance I would have come super close to a PR. I guess I'll just have to race a 5K one of these days. 

This week I'm back to running bigger miles before tapering for Madison. I've continuing to incorporate more hills into my routes and it's giving me some confidence. I'll be in Door County running the Fall 50 relay on Saturday and the plan is to run all the hills (at an "easy" pace.) It should be another great weekend with friends! Yahoo!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do Your Thing

Day 11 of recovery after Lakefront and I dare say I'm starting to get excited about the Madison Marathon! I still don't think I can "race" it all out but I'm feeling better and better about the idea of starting out slow and running whatever feels good. Maybe I'll surprise myself? Or maybe not. Either way I think it will be a good day. I realize people have all sorts of opinions about running multiple marathons close together but I will take my husband's always sage advice on this matter, which is "Fuck 'em." This is what makes me happy, and life is too short to not do the things that make you happy. \o/ Isn't there a Taylor Swift song about that sort of thing?

Speaking of other instances where this advice can be applied, I stumbled onto an online message board (yes, in the year 2014) where people were trash talking a runner/blogger I like and have followed for a few years now. It amazes me how people can spend so much time caring about what someone else does- to the point where there are pages and pages of comments on her training, her race times, even her outfits. I can't wrap my brain that kind of pre-occupation. Where does that come from? Does it make people feel better to snark so? I guess I don't expect any answers.

Me, I'll keep plugging along.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recover. Rebuild. Go.

I'm truly thankful that I recover so well. It's uncanny how well my body bounces back after a long run- if only I could put together that "perfect" race day before said recovery, right? I'd gladly experience a few extra days of soreness for that.

I tried to take it easy last week but by Thursday I felt like I was raring to go. I did hold back a little, despite the feeling that I wanted to bolt out my door on Sunday and disappear onto the trails all day. The fall weather is calling me! Instead I spent some time researching trail ultras for next year. People do some crazy shit! Yeah, I suppose I'm one of them. Hell no I'm not willing to do any triple digits though.

But all that's for next year. I've still got a few things on my plate in 2014 to round out the season so... slow down and take one thing at a time. I found my Doctor Who TARDIS dress for the Monster Run 5K next weekend so that was neat. And after that it's the Door County Fall 50 relay with my Game of Thrones-themed team! (I still need to embellish my Khaleesi costume from last year a bit.) Oh yeah, and that whole Madison Marathon thing and possibly the Schaumburg Half at the end of November.

It's a lot, but I love it. I really do. Sometimes I wonder what I would do with myself if I hadn't found this crazy sport. I'm in love with every bit of it- from having a workout on the schedule to check off my calendar (nearly) every day to the undeniable adrenaline at the starting line of a race. I'm happy I found something that just clicks for me. On days when I'm feeling a little down I look to the plans I've made for the upcoming months and I know I'll be ok.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tipping My Hat

This year has been all about the marathon distance for me. (Obviously.) While 2013 was all about running ultras and not focusing on my time, this year started out with on big, bold, FAST, time goal. While I didn't achieve that goal this year, I still feel like I want to end 2014 with me and the Marathon on good terms. Shake hands, if that makes sense.

So I signed up for the Madison Marathon on November 9th. Not as another BQ attempt, but rather I want to finish a marathon this year feeling "good". No pressure or worries about running a specific pace. No staring at my Garmin the whole time and not being in the moment. Madison will be my time to run whatever feels good that day and pay my respects to the marathon distance. I'm pumped to soak it all in and be grateful for what I've gone through this year. It's been an experience.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Words and Feelings: Lakefront Marathon 2014

I'm going to attempt a race recap but everything important about this race doesn't have as much to do with the actual race itself. There was so much buildup to Lakefront Marathon for me this year (for obvious reasons) so the story is more about journey there than anything. From the hardest, most dedicated summer of training I've every gone through to the nonstop motivation and encouragement from friends (you know who you are), the fact that I missed my goal seems secondary.

In January of this year I put a big dream of mine out into the Universe. I said that I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year. This is something that I never ever in a million years thought I would even attempt so it was a big hurdle for me to publicly say it was something I was going after. Having missed it three times now, on one hand I feel frustrated for building it up so big only to fall short, but I'm also more fired up than ever to smash this goal of mine with an iron fist. There are lessons to be learned from every race and after yesterday the tweaks I need to make to be successful are even more clear to me. (But more on that later.)

First the highlights of of the weekend!

Sara and I went together to pick up our packets on Saturday. She has had my back throughout this whole process. If you don't have a Sara already, I highly recommend you get one.

Then my friend Shiow came in from Chicago for a visit! We ate carbs and laughed and laughed and I went to bed at 9pm while she played Dungeons and Dragons with my family. Right before bed I realized we were out of wheat bagels and she and Jason ran out to the store to get some for me. It may seem like not a big deal but it made me feel special. The next morning Shiow even got up at 5am to see me off, declaring marathon morning "like Christmas for weirdos" and we snapped this photo:


Then all the usual race morning stuff. Long bus ride out to Grafton followed by an anxious hour of waiting at the start. I ran into some friends who wished me well and I was feeling good. Then we were off!

I'm not really sure how to explain the race other than it never felt like things were "clicking" for me. I started off a bit slower as planned- although in hindsight probably not enough- but I didn't feel super relaxed. My legs felt a little heavy and I kept thinking maybe I just needed to warm up since it was only 35 degrees and I was wearing shorts. I was running the correct pace for the most part but I've done enough marathons now to know when I'm going to have a great day. In Chicago last year I felt like the first 13 miles were a warmup, 20 miles is where the "race" started and I passed lots of people in the final 10K. (This is the only race where that has ever happened- I need to find that again!) This day, everything just felt...ok. I knew I would make it through the race but to have a blowout PR day in the marathon everything has to be nothing short of AMAZING. 

26.2 miles is a long way though and I wasn't about to write the day off in the first hour of running so I kept trying. Here's the amazing part about running a marathon in your hometown- everyone that comes out to cheer! Leading up to race day I lost track of how many people I would have to look for on the course and where they would be standing. I joked that I needed a spreadsheet to keep it all straight but it was really true. I saw people I knew everywhere! I don't even want to name names because I'll probably forget someone but if you were out there yesterday please know how much you were appreciated. Concordia was especially exciting because I saw my family cheering! I knew that whatever happened they were going to be proud of me. 

I think I reached the half marathon point in a little under 1:48, which was right on schedule but like I said before- it needed to feel like a warmup and it didn't. I had hoped to run miles 13-20 at slightly above goal pace and then "relax" the rest of the way in. Ha. When I tried to speed up though my legs just...didn't. Nothing. The winds were picking up and we hit some hills and it was difficult so I had no choice but to keep doing what I was doing. I knew this was a bad sign but again, there's no point in quitting halfway. 

By the time I saw my family again at 18 I pretty much knew I was toast as I was barely hanging on to an 8:20 pace then. (The bare minimum I needed to run, and it felt hard.) I tried to smile for them when I passed by but later they told me they could tell I was not happy.  I slipped even more into the 8:30s and 8:40s during the next two miles and when I saw friends again at mile 20/21 as I was wrapped up in a lot of messy emotions. The friends I saw at this point in the race were so positive and amazing and I wanted to run faster SO BAD just for them. It doesn't make sense because IT DOESN'T MATTER in the grand scheme of things but I wanted with all my heart to be successful for everyone who said they believed in me that day. Going into today I believed fully I was going to achieve my goal but by mile 22 that belief was gone. 

I walk/jogged in the last 4 miles because at that point the goal was missed and I was in that phase where I needed to come to terms with it so I could hopefully finish with a smile on my face.  At the mile 25 marker my minimum goal time of 3:38 flashed by on the clock. That was rough. Right after that I came by Rochelle, Marty and Tony and I wanted to lose it but at the same time I was so happy to see them because I had no idea I would be seeing anyone I knew this late in the race. I told myself not to be a baby and be strong for the finish so I picked myself up the best I could as I headed in Veteran's Park. I saw my friend Bill cheering and taking photos at mile 26 but after that I just kept my eyes forward and ran as hard as I could to the finish. I was done in 3:50:45. (Here's another reason why I'm kind of a jerk: This time was literally my dream time last year. Perspective.)

I put my hands on my knees and felt my face crumple right away which caught the eye of the medical staff so one guy was on me ASAP. I told him I was fine and just sad that I missed my time but he kept following me and helped me get my mylar cape and water, all while asking me a bunch of questions. I finally convinced him that I'd be ok and he let me go. I suppose it was nice that people are there looking out for you. Immediately after that I ran into a couple more friends who had finished right ahead of me and got some much needed hugs. The first few minutes after a finish is always so surreal so I was happy to see some familiar faces. I tried to pull myself together and went to go find Jason and Shiow so I could get wrapped up in even more hugs. MORE HUGS! Good lord I needed them. 
Ugh. This is longer than I intended. When I look back at the technical part of the race, I realize now that I probably need to start out even slower and build up speed from there. I'm kind of really afraid of beginning a marathon below my goal pace but I suppose it worked for me in Chicago last year so why not try it again next time I go for the BQ? What have a got to lose at this point? Seriously. As for when the next attempt might be I don't know right now. If anyone has a good suggestions for a favorable course, holler at me. I'm all ears. I still think when I do get to where I want to go it's going to be the best, most fantastic feeling ever having gone through all of this. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Don't Stop Believing

Well. One of these days I'll get my pacing nailed down and be able to finish a marathon strong. My legs felt kind of strange and heavy pretty early on in the race but I kept trying to push it anyway until I just couldn't push it anymore. I'm proud of how hard I trained this cycle and the fact that this was marathon #15 for me- and on the 5 year runniversary of my very first marathon! I was really blown away by how many awesome people I saw on the course today. Everyone really lifted my spirits despite me having have a bad day. I love this event so much and will be back. Now time to decompress, reevaluate and start figuring out why I always have my strongest runs in training. Sigh. Still managed a sub-4 though! Official time: 3:50:45. I am proud. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Letting it Happen

The hay is in the barn.

That's a comment a fellow Dailymiler made on one of my workouts this week. There's nothing more I can physically do now before race day. So instead focusing on trying to calm my mind.

Normally I'm not very good at this type of thing. I'm kind of go-go-go and don't take a lot of time to do things like meditate or focus my mind inward in any way. There's just too many distractions everywhere and let's face it all those kitten videos on the internet aren't going to watch themselves. I realize though how much of marathoning is a mental game though. When I look back at my implosion at Wisconsin Marathon during the final 10K I wonder how much of it was in my head. Sure, I definitely felt my hip locking up after mile 20, but part of me wonders if my brain took that unanticipated obstacle as an excuse to bail out.

Or maybe I just wasn't ready that day. I really doesn't matter I suppose. But I'll be damned if I start to check out mentally this time.

I've felt some negativity penetrate my "bubble" this week. I don't want to dwell on these thoughts because I can't think of any way they are constructive or helpful. I'm simply going to acknowledge my feelings and then let them go.

In an attempt to foster positivity I decided to make a good luck charm. For months there's been a locket that used to belong to one of the kids floating around the junk drawer in our kitchen.  I decided to snag it yesterday and put photos inside of two people who I'm pretty sure would still be pretty proud of me even if I end up falling flat on my face on Sunday. On the right is my mom, who never got a chance to know me as a runner. She knew me as a dancer and came to every single performance of mine, even if I was only on stage for a couple of minutes. I know she would be my biggest cheerleader of all if she was still here. The second photo is my grandpa who just passed away last Christmas. Since he lived in Florida for the last 25 years or so he also never saw me run. But whenever we spoke on the phone he would ask me how many miles my next marathon was going to be.  Some people think that question is exasperating but I found it incredibly endearing and I miss hearing it.

So that's it. I've been blogging a lot this week and it's been cathartic for me. Maybe it's self indulgent? Yeah, it probably is. But it's making me feel better.

Nothing left to do now but let it happen.