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Monday, September 11, 2017

Race13.1 Greenville Race Report

It has been a long, long uphill battle to try and get back to where I used to be running.  There were times when I thought I could never run more than just a few miles; there were times when I thought I should just quit running altogether, and there were times when the pain from running would make me want to cry. It was apparent that the way I used to approach running was no longer working, and that I needed to try a different approach.  So I decided that instead of focusing on making myself a better runner (by following the same old routine that I had always followed), I was going to focus on making myself a smarter runner.  I knew there were lots of variables I cannot control, but there were several I could, so I focused on these first because they were easy things that were not difficult to fix.  These included things like getting adequate sleep EVERY night, eating a dinner that I know would not mess with my stomach the night before a long run, running super early to avoid the crazy summer heat and humidity, taking a rest day if I needed to, adding track workouts to my regular training, and tracking my progress by uploading my Garmin to my computer (something I have NEVER done before!).  This may not sound like anything major, and it may even sound like things I should have been doing all along, but these things weren't always a priority.  Since making these things a necessity, I have seen a big difference in my performance.   Having said that, I am still struggling with nutrition and hydration issues during long runs (my stomach and colon since surgery refuses to let me take in a lot of fluid or gels during long run), and I still struggle with neuropathy, but I am seeing small improvements here and there in those areas as well.

The Race 13.1 Greenville half marathon is a brand new race, so I knew nothing about the company or the course.  But I needed a September race and I thought a half would be good marathon training as well as a way to test my fitness in a longer distance race.  Since I had only run 5Ks and 10Ks since summer, I was fairly apprehensive as to what type of speed I could hold in a half distance.  I admit that I was a nervous wreck leading up to the race.  I had run a hard 20 miler the Sunday before the race and had done a hard track workout the Tuesday before, so I was worried about my legs feeling heavy or dead. I went to bed extra early the Thursday and Friday before the race and made sure that my pre race dinner was pasta made at home, a tried and true meal that I knew would not upset my

 While  the temps for the start of the race were warmer than I would have preferred (59 degrees), the humidity was at least in the 70% range instead of the usual 90%.  However, by the time I finished my warm up mile I already had a sheen of sweat all over.  When the race began, I knew I would want to go out too hard, so I tried to rein myself in.  However, I hit mile one at 8:22 which was still too fast for what I should be running.  My goal for the race was 1:55, which I thought was reasonable based on my long runs splits in trainin.  This would be an 8:45ish pace and would be a solid half time for me. Since I wanted to try and run consistent splits,  I knew I needed to slow my roll.  When I hit mile 2 at 8:28 pace and felt comfortable, I changed my game plan.  I would try and hit 8:30-8:40 splits as long as I could and then try and hold on to an 8:45.  I figured I would slow down enough to start hitting my 8:45 pace around mile 6 or 7.  As each mile went by, I would glance at my watch and be shocked at my pace.  I was consistently hitting 8:30ish miles and feeling strong!  I kept wondering when the wheels
would fall off and I would start to significantly slow down, but it wasn't happening.  When I reached the turn around at mile 8, I was beginning to hurt, but I tried to simply focus on the runner in front of me and trying to not to let them put any distance between us.  I surprised myself with this tactic because more often than not I would end up overtaking the person in front of me and would have to refocus on a new person.  Around mile 11, I ran into Lauren who was out doing her 18 miler with Amanda.  I didn't realize how bad I was feeling until I saw her and tried to talk to her.  I couldn't speak!  As she ran alongside me to check in on how I was doing, I discovered I couldn't form words!  I would try to say something but it would come out as a groan or slur.  I just kept running and hoped she would understand.  Miles 12 and mile 13 were my slowest miles of the entire race.  Instead of getting that adrenaline surge when you are close to the finish line, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other.  I was desperately trying to hold my pace under 8:40, but it was too hard. And to make matters worse, the final half mile of the race was uphill!  And not just a little hill, but a really long hill that felt so steep I wondered if I could have walked faster than what I was running.  My average went completely out the window at this point (See splits in picture) and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.  When I neared the finish line, a woman passed me who looked to be about my age and I just had to watch her run by.  I wanted to hit 1:55 as my goal, so I was pretty happy to see 1:53 on my watch, but I was very agitated that my splits were all consistent except for mile 13 which was 9:31!

Thanks, Amanda, for capturing exactly how I felt at mile 11!
I felt like I was capable of making top ten in my age group if I ran a 1:55, so my 1:53 got me 6th place out of 39, and 26th  out of 246 females based on final results (this printout was before final results were posted).  The woman who did pass me at the finish line was in my age group and beat me by three seconds, but she deserved it for the way she beasted up the final hill.  I am still a far cry from my 1:48 half best, but I like the fact that I am getting much closer.  I may not get there again, but I am certainly closer than I was a few months ago, and that makes me very, very happy.  My next race coming up in October will be definitely put me out of my comfort zone, but that is how you grow! Happy training!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

That's a Wrap!: Greenville Sprint Triathlon Race Report

My 2017 triathlon season has officially come to an end!  I am embarrassed to say that it consisted of only two races, probably the least number of tris I have ever done in a season, but as I stated in my last post, my passion for the sport has tempered somewhat, and I have fallen totally in love with running (or at least for right now).   I really have enjoyed racing sprints this year, especially those locally.  It makes for a whole lot less training, and I get to sleep in my own bed the night before the race.  The pain is over relatively quickly since it is a sprint, and I still get to experience the thrill that is triathlon.  It is a win win and some of those sprint racers are insanely fast!  When you are training for long distance triathlons, you become accustomed to doing all your training at a much slower pace.  This season has forced me out of my comfort zone (my comfort zone is slow and steady) and forced me to experiment with those fast twitch muscles.  It has definitely been a learning experience, but one I surprisingly enjoyed (for the most part).  I am thinking that my future for the next couple seasons will consist of shorter distances, but I cannot rule out wanting to tackle that half distance again real soon (here's looking at you, Lake Logan!).

The Greenville Sprint is a barn burner of a race, with lots of speedy locals coming out to lay it all out on the line.  This year was no different.  I was definitely dreading the race simply because I have been neglecting my bike the past few weeks.  I could remember how painful the run was at Tri the Swamp Rabbit and I had been riding my bike to prepare for that race!  I had a horrible headache the day before the race that left me on the couch pretty much all day long.  It was excruciating and I kept taking Tylenol to no avail.  I ended up going to bed early simply because our living room light and the television glare were killing me.  I woke up  to my headache gone, but still wasn't really feeling like racing.  I felt sluggish and "off," but since I had paid for the race, by god, I was going to race it.

Swim:  8:28
The swim start was a dive in start which always messes with my head, but I navigated my dive without flipping my goggles off, so I took that as a good sign.  I had several people pass me on the swim, so I assumed I was not performing so hot, but I didn't want to push myself so early in the race.  I swam what felt comfortable and exited the swim around the same swim time I always have.

Thanks, Joanna for the pic!
Bike:  48:50
Like I said, I have been really neglecting my bike.  As I headed out of transition, I could tell that my legs were heavy.  I tried to ride steady, but felt myself falter on the hills and stayed in my small ring longer than I normally do on this course.  At the ten mile mark, I was only a mile or so from my house, and I was very tempted to just turn down my road and go home.  But Jenn Arends passed me, and I realized that I needed to snap out of it and get going.  I rode like hell to keep her within sight and was pretty  happy to pull into transition right behind her.   My bike time was almost the slowest bike time I have EVER done on this course so that tells you how bad it was.  My fastest time on this course was 44 minutes!

Run:  23:53
I was so mad about my slow bike time that I decided to just leave everything I had left out on the run course.  I got half a mile into the first loop and Joanna Kelly ran up behind me.  She was on her second loop, so would be done soon, while I had to suffer another entire lap.  Joanna was really laying it down, so I decided to step up and help pace her to the finish.  I shoved every ounce of pain I was feeling deep down inside me and put my head down and ran.  Joanna hung on and when I turned to start my second loop and she turned to head to the finish shoot, I knew she had had a solid run.  At this point, I thought I could slow down and just cruise along for lap two, but then I remembered that I was supposed to leave everything out on the run, so I dug deep and tried to pick up the pace.  It hurt, but by mile 2, I was started to find my rhythm and I saw my pace dropping.  I tried to picture my tempo runs, my track workouts, and chasing Lauren while running with Jonesey to help my mind get in the right place and it worked!  I crushed my last mile, running a full 15 seconds faster than the rest and crossed the finish line with my second best run time EVER at this race.
Thanks, Amanda for the pic!

Final Time:  1:23:07
I have a really bad habit of comparing myself to the previous years' times, and this time was no different.  I had to really have a mental talk with myself about this year's time after the race because I was really beating myself up about my slow bike.  Yes, I had a much slower bike, but I also have not been riding my bike.  Last year, after racing six races, including a half ironman the week before, I finished in 1:22.  And yet this year, with very little swim and bike training, I finished in almost the same time.  My run time, which I have been working on this season, has really paid off in spades; I was two minutes faster on the run this year than last.  You can definitely tell which discipline I paid the most attention to this season.  In hind sight and after my mental pep talk, I realized that my finish times were almost the same with less than half the amount of training this year.  I finished second in my age group but didn't hang around for awards because all that hard running sucked what was left of my energy out the window, and I felt myself needing a hot shower and a long nap.  While I was majorly dreading racing this race, I was very glad I did and I was even more glad when I was finished.  I am ready to focus on some half marathons and a possible marathon before the year is out.  I had several abysmal running races last year, so I am bound and determined to redeem myself and not having to worry about getting a bike or swim in for a while is a big weight off my shoulders.  Right now I am running six days a week and absolutely loving it.  Jonesey is back in the game from his knee injury and is proving to be a hardy running partner.  He seems to take whatever pace I run in stride and shows little signs of tiring.  I am still trying to break him in slowly, but he goes crazy when he sees me pick up my running shoes, so I am happy he loves running as much as I do.

Happy racing!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Run2Overcome 10K Race Report

When all of your friends are out of town for vacation or to race Lake Logan, what's a girl to do?  You spontaneously sign up for your own race, of course!  Registering for this race happened right at the last minute on a whim.  I wasn't looking forward to doing my tempo run all alone (Jonesey kept me company on my easy runs, but wasn't ready for a really hard run), so when I saw this race, I thought it would be the push I needed to get a hard workout in.  I knew I still had to do my long run on Sunday, but I couldn't resist the chance to see how I did on a tough 10K course.  I had a couple goal finish times in mind, with one being under 52 minutes.  I wasn't sure if the hills would make this goal realistic, but I wanted to shoot for it since the last 10K I had run (which was also hilly) was right at 53 minutes.

I suspected that this course would have a few hills in it because it started and ended at Cleveland Park, but I thought that most of it would be on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  Boy, was I wrong!  This course was one hill after another and the only flat was the last mile which did go on the SRT.  I went out trying to be conservative because the hills started immediately, but it was hard to not go all out.  The weather was around 72 and almost 100% humidity thanks to a late night thunderstorm.  My clothes were drenched by mile two.

This course was tough.  There were some downhills, but it was hard to enjoy them because you could see the uphill that was waiting for you at the bottom of the downhill.  This made it hard to find a good rhythm and pace.  I started to settle in around mile four but a long hill at mile five made me hate life. When we finally turned into the SRT for the final mile, I tried to really pick up the pace.  What made this mentally frustrating was the 5K runners merged at mile five and started passing me.  It was hard to tell if these men and women flying by me were truly passing me or were part of the 5K.  They were going so fast that I kept telling myself that they had to be 5Kers, but even if they weren't, I didn't have enough juice left in me to respond.  I ran the last mile as hard as I could, but I couldn't break the 52 minute mark.  Grrrr!

52:23 was my official finish time.  My mile break downs were as follows:  8:30, 8:42, 8:52, 8:29, 8:58, 8:16.  I was very happy to see that even with all the hills, all of my miles were under nine minutes.  I ended the day with 8 miles since I added in a mile warm up and mile cool down. Since all of my training the past two months has been on flat terrain, I was happy with my result.  I placed third in my age group and the two women who beat me were so far ahead that I knew there was no way I could have done better.    I am chomping at the bit to race a flat 10K or 5K, but am not sure when that will be since my focus now is preparing for my upcoming half marathons and hopefully another full. For the first time in a long time, my running is where I want it to be and I am really enjoying running.  I ended the week up with more than 40miles and my body felt like I could have done even more.  Unfortunately, school is starting back which always cuts into my training, so I am going to have to really HTFU and find the strength to get those workouts done.

I have one more triathlon left this season, and then it's full running beast mode for fall.  Can't wait!

Until next time,
Don't forget to be awesome!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tri the Swamp Rabbit Triathlon Race Report

Spoiler alert:  sprints are still HARD!  And they are really, really hard when you are not prepared.

As I have written about in my last couple posts, triathlon has been taking a back seat to well, pretty much everything.  I am not complaining; sometimes it is good to take a break from a hobby or passion to recharge or re-energize yourself, but this has been an unusually long break.  I have been doing this sport for almost 13 years which is pretty long in the life of triathlon.  There are only a handful of people I know who were racing when I started and are still competing.  Life happens and since triathlon is a very selfish, time consuming, and expensive hobby, it is understandable that people gravitate in and out of the field.  I don't think I have reached the end of my triathlon life span, but I do think that I am ready to pull back some and explore other options.  Several red flags have been popping up as of late, and I am realizing that I cannot ignore them any longer.

I signed up for Tri the Swamp Rabbit and really, really dreaded just registering.  Red flag #1.  I had a hard time forking over 70 bucks for an hour and a half of my time.  But I did it, and figured that I would be glad of my decision once the race was over.  Red flag #2:  getting ready for the race was another thing I dreaded.  I have enjoyed swimming this year, but that is because I have simply been swimming for fitness and not for any set goal.  Sometimes I swim 1,500, other times I swim 2,500 broken up into sets.  There is really no rhyme of reason to my swimming other than how I feel that day.  If I feel like doing speedwork, I do.  If I just want to swim slow continuous, I do.  And instead of swimming three times a week religiously like I usually do in tri season, I swim once or twice a week, just depending on how I feel.

The bike is an entirely different story.  I have always loved riding my bike.  I am good at it, and I enjoy the social aspect of riding with friends and being outside.  But this year has been different.  For one, social media has made me painfully aware of the number of drivers who feel that cyclists have no business being out of the road.  Furthermore, the number of comments that imply cyclists deserve to be hit, should be hit, and threaten to hit cyclists are scary.  In the past, I was blissfully unaware of how many people hated cyclists, but now every time I see a car, I find myself wondering if this will be the one that is going to take me out.  That has really put a damper on my desire to get out and ride. This summer I have pretty much only been riding my bike once a week.  That's it.  No three or four times a week like I used to.  And when I ride now, I am only riding a couple hours, not the four to five hour rides that I used to ride and I haven't been climbing anywhere near what I used to.  This has put a severe handicap on my cycling fitness; I can definitely tell a difference in my speed and in my endurance.  So I was going in to this race with limited training, like insanely limited training.  Last year I was training for Lake Logan Half doing two a days and splitting my time between swim/bike/run evenly.  This year I am barely doing one of three sports.

Fast forward to the morning of the race.  I drive to the race with a stomach ache.  Probably because I ate breakfast (I am not a breakfast eater, even before workouts) and probably because I was realizing just how miserable I was going to be in this race.  At the race, I visit with friends and find myself getting that usual pre race nervousness that makes me feel sick.  I took that as a good sign that my heart was still with triathlon or else I wouldn't have cared enough to be nervous.  The swim start was actually perfect for me.  I was seeded between two swimmers who were in perfect sync with me.  I never bumped into them and they never bumped into me.  I started feeling cocky in the water as I cruised those 250 meters.  This will be a piece of cake, I thought!

Swim including time to run to transition:  4:57 (faster than last year)

On to the bike, I sailed out of Furman feeling good and thinking I was going to own this bike.  Red flag#3:  my legs hurt.  Bad.  I was trying to ride in my big ring, but it was really hard.  The hills on the course seemed really steep and long.  I found myself having to switch into a little ring, something I normally don't have to do.  Ben, who last year I was able to chase for almost the entire bike, passed me around mile three and I literally could do nothing in retaliation.  I just watched him disappear.  I knew my bike would be slower, but I was not expecting the level of effort I was having to produce to try and ride a solid race.  I kept trying to tell myself to slow down and save my legs for the run, but my competitiveness refused to let me back off.  I might have a slower bike time, but I wasn't going to have THAT slow of a bike time, or so I thought.

Finally I reached Furman.  There was a long downhill and then a steep uphill leading back in to campus.  On the downhill, my chain dropped!  By the time I was able to back pedal it back on, I had lost my momentum on the hill and really struggled to get up the last hill.  I rolled back in to transition a whopping FOUR minutes slower that last year's race.  I was pissed, but could only be mad at myself.  When you bike easy once a week, this is what happens.

Bike time:  56:13 (four minutes slower than last year)

But there was the run to save me!  Running was the one thing I had been doing all summer.  In fact, I had run some of my fastest runs in the week leading up to this race!  I was killing myself running....which in hindsight was probably red flag #4.  Red flag #4: I was killing myself running. I spent the week leading up to this race running with Lauren, who runs about 1.5 minutes faster than me.  But I was trying to run with her, so I was redlining in every workout.  I didn't count on how much strength and stamina that week would take out of me.  There was no taper, no easy workouts, nothing.  All my energy that should have been reserved for this race had been used chasing Lauren all over Travelers Rest.  As I started to run out of transition, another feeling came over me.....dead legs.  WTF???  The run was supposed to be where I killed it!  But when this race is literally your first transition run of the season, it hurts.  My legs were already screaming from the hard bike and the agony they were in now was insane.  I figured they would come around once I got going, but red flag #5:  a cramp!  Remember how I said I had a stomach ache before the race?  Add a bottle of Gatorade (that I had not been using in training, whoops), and feeling like there was a balloon in my stomach and you get the side cramp from hell.  It hurt so bad that I wanted to stop and walk, but I kept trying to breathe like I was having a baby and push it out.  It wasn't until mile 2 that it started to subside, but by then my morale and anything I had left in the tank was gone.  I finished the race feeling like I was a complete failure.

Run time:  25:27 (faster than last year)

Overall time:  1:28:51 (two minutes slower than last year. Fifth in age group/third in age group last year)

Final thoughts:
I am definitely my own worst critic.  I expected to have the exact same race splits as last year and the year before even though I had not put in the training.  I started to beat myself up over my dismal performance, but then I had to try and rationalize the amount of training I had done versus previous years.  This made me feel better, but not a lot.  The other thing that bothered me was the lack of fun I had.  I didn't ENJOY this race at all except for the swim.  Now perhaps had I been trained better, I would have enjoyed the race more, but that's not all there is to it.  I didn't have fun.  And fun is what I always want from a race.  Even when I kill myself during a race, I still have fun and am glad I did it when it is over.  I didn't feel that way this time.  I almost felt something like regret for having done it in the first place. And that is the biggest red flag of them all.  Not enjoying or having fun during a race goes against everything I believe in racing.  I can puke my guts up after a race and cry from pain and need an IV, but I loved every minute of it. I didn't feel this way for this race.  Now, that is not to say I will feel this way at another triathlon, but this feeling is so novel that I find it utterly alarming.  I do believe that if I had been better prepared I probably would't have been as unhappy, but I really have no desire to prepare for my next race any more than what I am already doing.  The thought of biking three times a week does not appeal to me any more than swimming three times a week does.  So there you have my conundrum; is this lack of interest in the sport I love a natural ebb and flow, or is it something more definitive?  I plan on doing one other triathlon race this season.  Perhaps I will feel the way  I always have about the sport and return next season fully invigorated, or perhaps I will realize that taking a break is the right move for me.

Until next time,
don't forget to be awesome!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Firecracker Frolic 5K

With the start of July comes the reminder that the year is already halfway over!  So far this year I have run 555 miles; last year I logged in 1,000, so it is looking like I will exceed last year's totals pretty easily since I haven't even begun to marathon train yet.  I have never been much of a numbers person, but I am enjoying the ability to track total mileage on my Garmin as well as log in all my training miles in my running journal.  It is a good feeling to be able to look back on my year and see all that I have done, especially on days when I am beating myself up over a race or a workout that didn't go as planned.  Running is definitely becoming my favorite sport.  I am completely surprised by this as cycling has always been my strong suit, but I think that as I continue to grow as an athlete and person that it is good to pursue other interests and passions.  I love triathlon and will always want to race at some level, but I also realize that triathlon (and Ironman, specifically) does not solely define me.  Running has my heart right now and I want to continue to nurture this new love I have for it.  I certainly don't know how long it will last, but becoming a better runner will ultimately help me become a better triathlete, so I view this detour as a benefit in more ways than one.  

One of the crazy things that running has gotten me doing again is track work.  I hate track workouts, so this should prove how bad the running bug has bitten me.  Before I got sick, I ran a 22:53 5K in 2012, and while I know I will never hit that time again, I am hoping that I can get in the 24 (or maybe even 23) range one day.  I had a triathlon picked out for July to race, but I didn't have any sort of running race on the schedule, and this was causing me to have some major running race withdrawals.  Lisa told me about the Firecracker Frolic 5K in Easley on July 4th and it sounded perfect.  

The temperature at the start was in the low 70s and of course, 90%+ humidity because, well,  it's July in South Carolina.  I knew that the temperature would be an issue but was hoping that the short distance would save me from overheating.  My plan was to run hard and hope for an average pace under 8:30.  I thought I was capable of an 8:20, but really didn't know how the heat would affect me and I didn't know how many hills there were.   I lined up near the front because I didn't want to get bunched up in a traffic jam and figured it was easier for people to pass me than the other way around. A firecracker sounded the start of the race and I took off like a racehorse out of the gate.  You would think I would learn not to do this, but as I felt like I would have a heart attack within the first three minutes I looked at my watch and saw a 7:25 pace and realized why.  I pulled back and tried to settle in, but I kept running way harder than I needed to.  I finally decided when I hit mile one at 7:54 that I would just run this race as hard as I could and see how long it took me to blow up (this is common habit of mine).  Of course there is no way I can maintain a 7:54 pace for three miles, so I knew I would be slowing down, and slow down I did.  I hit a couple short hills and felt them take a toll on my lungs and legs.  My Garmin alerted me to let me know that my second mile was an 8:19.  This was way more my speed, but still fairly fast.  The final half mile of the race was on a slight incline.  Not anything major, but just enough to feel it and knock your pace up bit by bit.  I tried to dig and picture the track workouts I had been doing by visualizing a track and telling myself I had two laps left.  I pictured the turns of the track when to try and kick it into overdrive.  This actually helped a great deal and I hit mile three with an 8:34 average (which is the pace I should have been aiming for all three miles).  One tenth to go and it might as well have been one mile because the finish line was on a hill!  I sounded like a smoker running through the chute, but was pretty pleased to see that I made it under 26 minutes.  25:40 was my official time and my pace was 8:18!  This was better than my original goal and even better than I had thought I was capable of.  I was stoked!  I ended up second Masters and the girl who beat me for first was in the 22s, so I was content knowing that no matter how much harder I had gone, I would not have been able to beat that time.  

I know this time may not sound stellar to seasoned runners who run 8:18s on their easy runs, but being able to hit that pace in July is impressive for me.  It has given me newfound hope for my times once cooler weather gets here and has pushed me even deeper in love with running.  I have been working so hard on trying to get my speed back and being able to see some benefits from it is extremely fulfilling.  I remember how emotionally low I was at the end of May when I had my disaster half marathon, so this has been a huge morale boost.  Cooler weather will be here before I know it and with that longer distance races, so I am excited to see what will happen.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunrise 8K Race Report

My last post in late May was all about my dismal M2M Half in which I walked approximately seven miles and realized that long distance races in the heat are no longer my thing.  I hung my head in shame for a week or so and then eased back in to running again.  While I might not be able to run half marathons in 80 degrees anymore, that didn't mean I had to quit running altogether.

Since this year has been about racing new races, I thought that I would take a stab at Simpsonville's Sunrise 8K run.  The appeal to this race was that it started at sunrise, literally.  I love the thought of any race that starts at 6am, so I was pretty stoked.  Lauren agreed to meet me and race it as well, so we decided to make a long run out of it and run a total of 8 miles.  We would do one mile as a warm up and then do two more miles after the race as our cool down.  While most of the course is flat, the final section through Powderhorn and Poinsettia neighborhoods had hills.  However, the huge trees in these neighborhoods provided lots of cool shade, so I felt it was a fair trade off.  I told Lauren that I would be thrilled with an 8:45 pace, but that I didn't know how difficult that would be since all my training runs had been super slow and there was that horrible debacle of a half a couple weeks earlier.

When the race started, I immediately went out way too fast, but I knew I would settle in once the crowds started to thin.  After the first mile, I found a pace that felt good but also forced me to push pretty steady.  Lauren was on cruise control, so I just tried to match her strides and hang on.  By mile 2.5, we found the first of the hills and Lauren would surge up them ahead of me.  I was always able to catch back up to her (perhaps she slowed down?), but at mile 3.5, I could feel the wheels coming off.  Lauren surged up the hill and I had no response.  She started getting further away.  I noticed my pace was slipping.  A second here, a second there.  I tried to focus on Lauren and keeping her in my sights, but she kept inching ahead in the distance.  When I hit mile four and saw my time  I told myself that I was on track for a far better race than I had expected, so I better not blow it in the in final mile.  I then told myself that I could do anything for eight and a half minutes, so I just needed to put my head down and fight.

The final quarter mile of the race involved another hill and then a flat stretch to the finish line.  Climbing that last hill really sucked it out of me and I could hear someone coming up behind me.  On the flat stretch to the finish line, I saw a glimpse of yellow and what looked like a woman's leg.  Then I saw a flash of a ponytail as a woman edged up beside me.  I had no idea how old this woman was but I had not seen her at all over the course of the race.  She was clearly getting ready to pass me At.The.Finish.Line.  I dug into whatever reserves I had left and willed myself forward.  It hurt, I ached, but I was able to keep this mystery woman behind me (she may have not even noticed or cared that I was trying so hard to cross first) and I hit the finish line in 41:29, an 8:21 pace!

I was pretty pleased with my race.  I held a faster pace than I thought I could, giving me hope that I could hold this pace for a longer distance.  I won my age group after coming off one of the worst races ever just a few weeks before.  Lauren helped immensely since she served as a perfect rabbit to chase.  She makes me push myself while she just cruises along.  She could have probably held that pace another 20 miles.

Not really sure what is up next.  School is finally out, and I have time to bike and swim more, so I will probably spend more time tri training.  But I am still looking for running races nearby in case a potential race shows promise.  Since I can't handle the longer distances in the heat, I have decided this summer to focus on improving my speed.  I plan on doing some track workouts (my friends will think I am nuts because they know how much I hate track workouts), and really trying to dial in my 5 and 10K times.  My hope is that this will pay off when I start back marathon training in the fall.

Until next time,
Happy training!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Mountains 2 Main Half Marathon

Even though it is officially tri season, I am still stuck in running season. It seems like the past few years my tri season start keeps getting later and later.   I am swimming twice a week and cycling once a week, but my running shoes still seem to get most of my attention.  Maybe I am turning into a one sport kind of girl, but triathlon has not fallen completely off my radar; I do plan on racing some tris as soon as summer gets here.

Running season for me usually ends in early spring because tri season starts then; in fact, I don't ever remember running a half marathon this late in the year that wasn't part of a half iron distance race.  I knew I was no where near ready to do the half iron distance triathlon for this race, but the half marathon sounded perfect, especially since it would be on familiar stomping grounds.  Another bonus was that this race takes place mainly on the Swamp Rabbit Trail which means with the exception of a couple hills, it would be a flat race. However, my main concern was the temperature.  Maybe it is because I am getting older, or maybe it's because of other mitigating factors, but ever since my nephrectomy, heat really seems to affects me.

As race day grew nearer, the temperatures kept right on climbing.  The start was predicted to be almost 70 degrees with temps in the mid to upper 80s by noon.  I met up with Scottie before the start and as we stood near the start line chatting, I felt like I was already sweating.  The clouds were at least covering the sun (for now), and there was a slight breeze, but the humidity was off the charts.  The gun fired and I started out conservatively since I knew a huge hill was waiting on me before the first mile was over.  By mile three, I knew I would have a bad day, but I thought I could race conservative and just clock in a slower half time.  I pulled back and allowed myself to find a 9 minute mile pace; I figured I would end the race with a pace close to 9:30, which was no where near where I wanted, but I figured it was better than nothing.

The course entered Furman campus around mile 4.5 and included the final hill before winding around the lake and dropping runners back on the SRT.  The hill is a steep but short grunt that really elevates your heart rate.  I have run this hill A LOT in training, so I was quite prepared for what to expect.  I knew that while my heart rate would spike on the ascent, the nice downhill on the other side would allow me to recover and by the time I hit the flat I would feel like the hill never happened.  I had done this hill multiple times in the weeks leading up to this race, so when my heart started to thump out of my chest, I thought nothing of it.  But on the descent I noticed my heart was beating even harder than it was when I was climbing.  It was a very odd sensation, so I did notice it, but kept on running and assumed it would calm down.  But it didn't.  My heart kept right on thumping out of my chest like I was climbing a mountain.  I was well onto the flat section at this point and slowed my pace to see if that helped.  It didn't.  I started to get a little panicky; I have never had any sort of heart issue, so this was a first.  By the time I got back to the SRT, Scottie had caught up to me, and I told her that something was wrong with my heart.  She suggested I walk and stop at the aid station.  I did, and my heart rate seemed to drop somewhat, but as soon as I started running, I felt like I was running straight up hill again.  At this point I hit mile six.  I knew something was horribly wrong, so I started walking.  I figured I would keep walking until I felt better and then pick back up running.  My time would be a little slower, but I figured I would feel better once I walked a bit and my heart rate came down.

The only problem was that never happened.  Every time I would try to run, my heart would explode and scare the hell out of me.  I ended up walking the remaining way, over seven miles!  It was humiliating, depressing, sad, and scary.  I watched helplessly as person after person passed me.  I tried desperately to rationalize with myself what was happening to my body and kept coming back to severe dehydration, but since I'm not a doctor or nurse, I couldn't be sure.  I asked myself questions to see if I was coherent.  I tried to speak casually to police officers working the roads to make sure I could communicate.  I shoved ice down my sports bra, under my hat, down my shorts.  I sang along to my music to force myself to focus.  It was a long, dark, and lonely seven miles.

Finally, I made it to the finish line.  Two hours and forty minutes!!!!  My pace was over 12 minutes per mile which I guess is not bad considering how horrible I felt and how long I walked.  I remember grabbing my medal and sitting down on the ground as soon as I stopped.  Then I remember lying down.  Finally medical noticed me and got me in to the medical tent.  I quick check of my vitals showed an elevated heart rate and low blood pressure.  They forced me to down some electrolytes and kept checking my vitals.  After I explained my situation, they agreed with my conclusion that dehydration was probably the culprit.  I was ordered to drink plenty of electrolytes and take it easy.  To illustrate just how dehydrated I was, I didn't urinate until almost three in the afternoon; I normally go every couple hours, but had not gone since 7am and had been drinking fluid steadily since noon.

So what did I learn from all this?  Unfortunately, I came to the realization that heat is no longer my friend.  I have fooled myself into thinking that there were other factors at play, but the common denominator in all my bad runs has been the heat.  I can keep on punishing myself by trying to force myself to finish long races in high temps, or I can be smart and only race when the distance is short and the temps are low.  While I do love competing, I love my body more, and no race is worth doing permanent damage to myself.  This is a bitter pill to swallow, but one that I have had a long time to process and think about, and I know this is the best decision for me.  As I get older, I realize that racing is evolving into more of a "fun" hobby than a competitive desire.  Racing definitely gives me something to work towards and gives me a carrot to chase, so I will never give it up completely, but the need to race in order to compare myself to others or the desire to race and push myself to the very limits of my ability is waning.  I can't quite put my finger on it (maybe it's maturity, maybe it's complacency, maybe it's old age). but something inside of me doesn't feel the need to prove myself anymore.

I will always want to race, and I will always want to do well, but I think my definition of "do well" is evolving somewhat.

I am not sure what race I will be tackling next, but you can count on there being another race in my future.

Happy training!