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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Time to Throw in the Towel???: Take Flight 5K and Freedom Flyer 5K Race Reports

Sometimes it is just not meant to be.  I had two races scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, two chances for the sub 25 PR that I have been chasing for over almost two seasons.  The first race was on an airport runway which is basically as flat as a track, so I felt this race would provide me with the greatest shot at hitting my goal.  The weather, although humid and hot, was at least supposed to be overcast so I wouldn't have to worry about direct sun burning up the black runway asphalt and not being able to find shade, but my body had other ideas because I woke up Friday morning with a sore throat, congestion, and sinus pressure that made my head feel like it was going to explode.  Breathing out my nose was impossible, and I spent most of Friday blowing my nose every 2 minutes.  I felt stiff and achy and knew that I would not be going into this race at 100%.  But I still wanted to give it my all, just in case.  I should have known during my warm up that this was not the cards for me because I felt exhausted and out of breath.  I hoped it was one of those you'll feel better once you get really running warm ups, but I did not have my hopes up.  The race started well, in that I could breathe and my pace was where it needed to be, but somewhere in the mile two range my body seemed to just run out of gas.  My legs felt heavy and I felt so incredibly tired.  By the time I began mile three I wanted to walk, but forced myself to finish the race as hard as I could.  Even though I was running as hard as I could the woman I was chasing kept getting further ahead and I kept dropping further behind which knocked me way out of my sub 25 range (I finished in 25:45).  I definitely did not feel good physically when I finished,  and I knew that my body really wanted a soft bed to sleep in for the next three days.  I headed home and crashed hard for a couple hours and then slept off and on for the rest of the day.  I knew that if I was going to race well on Monday, I needed to let my body recover as much as possible.

On Sunday morning, I had scheduled a six mile run, but I was feeling so awful and my head was hurting so bad from congestion, that I just ran/walked with Regina.  I probably should have not even attempted a run considering how bad I felt, but stubborness is one of my biggest flaws.  When Monday morning rolled around, Tropical Storm Alberto had descended and a steady rain was falling.  I felt a little bit better with all the lying around I had been doing, but still didn't feel quite up to snuff.  I headed out to the Kroc Center to do my three mile warm up and still didn't feel all that great.  I decided that I would be better off to race this 5K as a training run and not try to PR it.  I would go hard, but I wouldn't try and stress my body if I could help it.  When the race began, I knew within the first half mile that this run was going to be a struggle so I was glad that I had decided to use it as a training run.  Running down a dirt road and across a grassy field didn't help matters any, so by the time I finished, I was literally finished.  I carried a huge American flag the final two tenth to the finish line and my hat goes off to anyone who carries one the entire time during a race.  It was heavy and cumbersome and very difficult to manage!  I also may have accidentally impaled the runner behind me when I abruptly stopped at the finish line (whoops).  I was soaked to the bone, covered in mud and grass debris so I called it quits on any sort of cool down jog.  At no point during this race did I come anywhere close to hitting my target pace (I finished in 26:03 and never ran faster than an 8:17 mile).  My body was definitely sending me a message.  And that message was:  you.are.old.

I have to admit that I am not that young anymore.  While I still feel youthful in many ways, my body has been through a lot of physical stress the past five years.  Add to this the usual effects of the body  due to aging and the conclusion is this:  my body is slowing down.  It is taking me longer to recover, longer to bounce back from the occasional cold or bug, longer to activate those fast twitch muscles, longer to get my heartrate up, and longer to get over those now more frequent aches and pains.  Basically, running an 8 minute mile was a lot easier seven years ago; I  am no spring chicken anymore....I am more like an autumn hen.  And while I still feel that I can break my 25 min goal, I simply don't think I can do it during the summer months.  The heat and humidity simply take too much out of me.  I think my best chance will be in the fall and winter months where the 40 degree temps are my friend.  This is extremely frustrating for me to admit failure, and I certainly will keep trying these next few months to hit that elusive goal, but realistically I know I am probably not going to come close.  So I will just hit pause on my sub 25 goal for now and hit resume when cooler weather comes back around.  I can't quite accept the fact that I may never reach my goal, but my window is definitely getting more narrow.   At some point I may have to seriously consider throwing in the towel on this goal and moving on to something more realistic, but I am not quite ready to do that just yet.

I had a 5 mile race scheduled in a couple weeks, but I think I am going to give my body a much needed rest.  Maybe I will start swimming and cycling again or just dial back the running.  School will be out next week, so this will certainly be a welcome respite. 

Until next time,
Happy training!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Still Chasing PRs: Mountains to Main Street 5K

There is not a whole lot to say about this race other than Mother Nature strikes again.  The past two weeks in South Carolina have been something like a sauna.  Hot, humid, muggy, wet, and suffocating pretty much sums it up.  When you have been running in 50 degree temps with little humidity and then find yourself in 70 degree temps with 98% humidity, it feels like you are in a rain forest.  The amount of water flowing out of my pores makes me feel like a sprinkler.  By the time I am done running, everything, from my hair to my shoes is completely soaked.   I will never get used to running in these kinds of temps!  So anyway, rain was in the forecast for Saturday's race which meant high humidity, but I would have been grateful for rain to at least cool things down.  However, it did not rain which meant hot mugginess instead.  Oh well, at least the sun wasn't blazing down.

Lauren and I met up early and ran a mile and a half warm up to the start line before the race so our legs would not feel so heavy when the gun sounded.  For the past couple weeks I have really been taking my easy runs "easy".  I have been walking hills, stopping to let the dog pee or sniff around, running ten-eleven  minute miles and not doing any sort of intervals, track work, or hard pacing.  I have been moving my legs and that is pretty much it.  So the weather and my lack of actual training made the idea of running this 5K pretty depressing.   However, when the gun sounded that adrenaline kicked in and I took off like a shot.  The first mile of the course has some hills fairly early on, so this forced me to pull back a bit and try to get my heart rate under control.  Once we got to the SRT, I was feeling more settled and I was able to pick up the pace a bit for mile two.  But by the start of mile three, I was really feeling the effects of the heat and humidity, and I was struggling.  I could feel my form starting to get sloppy and loose and I could feel my feet skidding over the ground a couple times from not picking my feet up.  I tried to suck it up and get it done and I was really, really close to being where I wanted to be time wise.  But alas, it was not to be because the course measured 3.18 and those extra .08 was enough to slide me into the 25 minute category.  I'm not complaining too much though since my time was almost as good as it was when it was 50 degrees and low humidity.  I did place as Overall Masters Female which was a perk and Lauren snagged second overall female (told you she was fast!), but since we had company in town, I had to run out as soon as they announced my award so didn't get to see anyone else get their awards or catch any of the half marathoners finish.

So I didn't get to ring that metaphorical PR bell, but no worries; I am trying to that PR again next weekend.....TWICE!  Yes, that is two chances to see if I can go sub 25 because I am doing two races this coming weekend.  I am so close to grabbing that PR bell that  I am eager to take a another swing.  Easy running this week to keep my legs loose and fingers crossed for cooperative weather on Saturday!

Splits:  8:03 (mile 1), 7:58 (mile 2), 8:12 (mile 3), 7:36 (final .18)
25:36 total time, 1st place Masters Female
13th finisher out of 164 competitors
6th female out of 109 females

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Twelve Seconds: Reedy River 5K

Twelve seconds.  That doesn't sound like a lot, but in the world of running it might as well be twelve minutes, or hours, or days because twelve seconds is a lifetime in running. 

Last year when I ran the Reedy River 5K, I had just begun my quest to break 25 minutes in a 5K.  I fell far short of my goal (26:02), but it was a start.  However, chasing this sub 25 has been a struggle to say the least.  Trying to come back from cancer, getting older, and always training for long distance events made it really difficult for me to activate anything remotely "fast."  My body had become pretty content with 9 minute pace being my fast pace, so asking it to go faster than this has been met with a lot of resistance.  But I have kept at it and I am finally starting to see some of the payoff.

Course elevation.  Notice the final half mile hill.
The Reedy River 5K was pretty much the same course as last year with the exception of one street so I knew beforehand just where the difficult sections would be.  Instead of starting out slow, I decided to go out faster than my 8 minute goal pace since I knew there would be some downhill to help make it easier.  My watch flashed 7:42 as my split for mile one.  I had some time in the bank for mile three now.  Mile two was relatively flat, but it did have a couple little hills so I figured I would stick closer to 8 minutes here, and then whatever time I had extra would be used on mile three which contained the dreaded half mile uphill section.   I hit mile two at a 7:57 pace.  This gave me 21 seconds to use on the hill for mile three, plus whatever I might need for the final .10.  I was mentally prepared for the hill, but it still hurt.  I am not sure I will ever be prepared for the length of that hill.  It seems to go on forever.  I tried not to look at my watch but instead pushed myself up, up, up.  When I crested the hill and made the turn for the homestretch, I glanced at my watch.  Oh no!  I was at an 8:07 average.  I knew I didn't have a lot of real estate left to take time off, but I had to try.  I flew through the last quarter mile of the course.  I could see the finish line, but could also see my watch.  I didn't think I would make it, but maybe.....I knew I had to try.  Finally, there was the timing mat.  I felt as if I was hurling my body across it, but when I looked down, I saw that I was 11 seconds (12 seconds by the official race clock) too slow.  I was gutted.  I wasn't sure if I was going to cry or vomit.  Luckily, I didn't do either and I simply staggered off to the side to watch others finish.  I couldn't believe I had not met my goal.
Trying to propel myself to the finish line.  Photo courtesy of Pace Running Shop.

However, when I looked at my watch and my splits, I saw that the course was long.  My watch said 3.14.  I asked a couple other people if there distance was long and they had similar distances.  This made me feel a little bit better, but you have to run the course that is given, long or not.  Officially, my time is still twelve seconds slower than I was hoping for.  I will have to do better.   Regardless of what my watch said, the official time had me at 25:12, and those twelve seconds are like twelve little voices whispering in my ear telling me that I can't do it, I'm not good enough, I should give up.  It's frustrating, but my frustration is helping to fuel my desire to prove those twelve seconds wrong.  I did manage to win 3rd Masters which was a little bit of consolation, but had already left the race before the award ceremony so didn't get my award!
My time.  

3rd Masters!  

I have a couple more shots at the 5K distance coming up, so I hope I can redeem myself.  If not, there is always next year.  However, marathon training season will be starting up this summer so I will be switching back to long, slow runs which will make achieving that 5K goal even harder.  Fingers crossed I can reach my goal before then!

Until next time, happy training!

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Hero's 5K: Chasing PRs

I am not sure if anyone reads my blog anymore, but I plan to keep on writing these race reports simply because I  enjoy it.  I enjoy the process of putting pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard) and I enjoy the act of reflection after the race, where I think about how I did, what I could have done better, what I did wrong, and what I should do in the future.  I think of it as closure and in looking back at past reports, I can see how I have evolved as an athlete over the years.

For the past year I have been chasing a sub 25 min 5K.  This used to be an doable feat.  This used to be no big deal.  But then when I got sick everything changed; 25 minutes in a 5K suddenly became impossible.  Sub 25 became my carrot.  It loomed over me, taunting me, teasing me, always within reach but never quite attainable.  I came close on several occasions:  a 25:17 in 2017, 25:35 this past January, and my off course snafu in February that would have been sub 25 had I not gone off course.  Being so close has driven me crazy so when I didn't hit my goal at the St. Paddy's 5K last weekend, I decided to enter in another 5K the following Saturday.

A Hero's 5K is a race that I am particularly fond of.  It takes place at Furman, all proceeds go directly to Upstate Warrior Solution, and it is one of the first stand alone 5Ks I ever did.  I wasn't too happy with the weather report for race day...rain, but the temperature was at least in the low 40s which is perfect running weather minus the rain.  However, when I rolled out of bed and looked outside I saw the ground was wet, but it was not raining.  Rain was still in the forecast so I brought a couple extra shirts to change into since I was planning on doing a warm up then the race and then another run afterwards.  Jeff met me before the race and we ran the course together as a warm up.  I really enjoyed the course but was disappointed that it was short on my Garmin (2.90 in warm up).  This would affect my PR goal significantly so I knew that I needed to hit my pace goal of 8min/mile instead of a time goal of sub 25.  Luckily the rain was holding off, so I opted to strip out of my long sleeved shirt and race in a tank; the race was slow to get started and I almost froze to death while we stood around waiting until a kind woman loaned me her jacket for a bit. 

The gun sounded and I took off way too hard out of the gate (typical).  Fortunately I was able to pull back a bit as we hit the first hill and try to get my heart rate under control  Because of this my first mile was an 8:09 which scared me so badly that I kicked it into high gear as soon as I saw the split flash on my watch.  Mile two was a 7:48 minute mile!  We were on flat and a slight downhill section for this but I was pleasantly surprised to see this split come up.  I knew based on those two splits that I was on my way to hitting my goal, but I was scared to death that I was going to be too gassed at the end to make it.  I hit mile 2.5 at a 7:53 pace and knew that I had it in the bag.  I crossed the finish line in 22:58 with my watch giving me an 7:57 pace and the 40-49 female age group win.  I had done it, but my victory felt hollow since the course was short.  Another runner said that times would be about 45-60 seconds off by his calculations, so I did the math and realized that I still would have hit my PR time, but I still don't consider this an outright win.  I want to break 25 on a true 5K course, period.  However, this race gave me the confidence to know that I CAN do it.  After the race, Jeff and I ran another four miles before calling it a day.  The rain managed to hold off the entire time making it a perfect running day! 

My pace and total distance

Race time and pace!

Not sure what is next for me.  I keep looking at 5Ks hoping one of them might be "the one" where I really meet my goal, but I also want to do some longer stuff so I am torn as to what direction I want to go in.  What I do know is that I am almost 99% certain that I am stepping back from triathlons this season.  I can't say it for 100% since summer and warmer weather might change my mind, but I am so in love with running right now that I really want to pursue it.  I never thought I would be a "runner" but it certainly looks like that is what I am becoming and I am completely on board with it! 

Happy training!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

St. Paddy's Dash and Bash 5K Race Report

After the epic screwup that I made out of the Swamp Rabbit 5K a couple weeks ago, I decided to take another shot at a 5K by entering in the St. Paddy's Dash and Bash on March 17.  This 5K starts and ends at Flour Field and runs through downtown Greenville.  I knew going in that the race would not be flat since it is hard to find any streets in Greenville that are flat, but I thought that it might be somewhat flat-ish (a girl can dream, right?).  However, the week leading up to the race was not kind to me at all.  I came down with a massive head cold the Monday before the race.  This was not your ordinary cold.  This cold kicked my ass!  Besides my nose turning in to a non stop spigot, my congestion moved from my head to chest on Friday and left me with a painful cough that I could not shake.  I ran several days despite having the cold which some people might frown upon, but running was pretty much the only thing that allowed my head and lungs to clear up enough so I could breathe, even if only temporarily.  A lot of times running will loosen up all the congestion I have and I find myself feeling much better later on in the day, but based on the runs I had done during the week, I was not seeing any improvement.

I opted to do the race anyway, since I had already paid my money, and since it had been five days since I became sick I figured my cold was on its way out the door.  Lauren and I opted to run the course before the race as part of our warm up.  We ran super easy and I could tell that I was struggling since breathing seemed difficult, but I figured race adrenaline would kick in during the race and I would feel better.  I am super glad we ran the course beforehand because there were some serious hills on the back end of the course.  Basically the first mile and a half was downhill and the last mile and a half was uphill.  I decided that instead of trying to hold back on the downhill I would give it all I had since I was pretty sure I would be gassed by the uphill section due to my cold.  When the gun sounded I tried to chase Lauren but she was running so fast that I lost her almost immediately.  I could tell for the first mile that I was winded, and even though we were running downhill I could feel that my legs were heavy and not wanting to turn over.  I did however, manage to pass a good number of people so I felt like I was doing okay.

By the time I reached the aid station near the halfway point, I was beginning to hurt.  You need lungs to breathe and mine felt like they were full of mucous.  I kept coughing and clearing my throat and my mouth felt like it had cotton all in it.  I could feel my body start to slow on the uphill and I quit looking at my watch because it was seriously depressing me.  All the people I had passed on the downhill were now passing me back.  When I finally crested the last hill (which was crazy long), we had to run around the baseball stadium.  I put my head down and tried to put the pedal to the metal.  I managed to pull ahead of several people in front of me and I kept pushing harder.  I made it almost halfway around the stadium before I simply ran out of gas.  By the time I reached home plate the handful of people I had passed had re-passed me at the finish line.  When I crossed the line, I thought I was going to hack up a lung.  I felt woozy, dehydrated, and exhausted.  I caught back up with Lauren (who was tenth overall female and first in her age group!) and we headed out for our remaining four mile cool down.  I was so exhausted from the 5K that I could barely do the four miles.  I had to stop and walk multiple times and my running pace was not that much faster than my walking pace.  I had to admit that perhaps I pushed too hard in this race and now I was paying the price.

I still did not manage to beat my 2018 running goal which was to break 25 minutes.  I finished this race in 25:57 which was good enough for third in my age group, but I can't get that sub 25 out of my mind.  I know that on the right day, I can do this, but I simply haven't had it yet.  I feel like a completely different person than the girl who ran a sub 23 just 6 years ago, but I am a completely different person not to mention six years older!  I am not used to not achieving a goal I set for myself, so this sub 25 carrot feels like it is constantly dangling in my face.  I am going to catch that carrot though, just hide and watch.

Onwards and upwards, there's always another race on the horizon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

GHS Swamp Rabbit 5K

Let's set the record straight.  Running a 5K is hard.  Like, really hard.  Running a marathon or half marathon may be harder, but that doesn't negate the fact that the 5K is still HARD.  Especially when you are running as hard as you can.  The pace I run in a half or full marathon is no where close to the pace I run in a 5K because the pace I am running in a 5K is my full on beast mode pace.  It's my someone's chasing me with an ax pace.  I am full anaerobic from start to finish.  It is a pain completely different from long distance running pain.  5K pain burns like fire and threatens to consume me.  Marathon pain is a more manageable dull throb that just makes me tired.  5K pain makes my head feel like it is going to explode from pressure.  When I run a 5K, I am running balls to the wall the entire time which is why it is both so gratifying and so frustrating all at the same time.

The Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon also hosts a 5K.  Since I had run HH Marathon just two weeks earlier, I opted to not run the half but instead do the 5K.  I was chasing that sub 25 goal and felt like this might be the race where I achieved it.  I did a 1.5 mile warm up with Lauren and chatted with Regina and Lisa and Linda and then it was time to toe the line.  When the race started I tried to keep Lauren in my sights as long as I could, but running almost a minute faster pace than me made this virtually impossible.  I tried to settle in to a low 8 minute pace and hoped that I could hit negative splits for the final two miles.  Things were going painfully well for the first two and a half miles.  I was hurting in a huge way, but was still hanging in there.  I wasn't sure if I was going to go sub 25, but I was going to give it everything I had to try.  I was blocking everything out:  sounds, people around me, everything except the handful of guys who were in front of me.  I was slowing trying to bridge the gap between us.  I kept getting closer and closer.  We hit three miles underneath the bridge where the SRT ends.  I was going to be so close, I thought.  Just keep pushing.  Like a mindless sheep I followed the guys ahead of me, onto the sidewalk, right turn up the hill away from the finish line.  Wait.  What????  About halfway up this ridiculous hill, the guys in front of me started turning around and throwing their hands up in the air.  What was going on?  Apparently, I had blindly followed the men the wrong way!!!  Yes, I know this was my fault, but it didn't change how angry I was because of it.  We all turned around and ran back down the hill yelling at a nearby policeman to tell us where to go.  We looped back around and plopped back on the course and hit the finish line.  My wrong turn cost me not only an extra .08 of a mile, but it also cost me my sub 25 goal as I finished in 25 min and some change.  I was furious that this had happened even though the one person who was ultimately to blame was me for not paying attention to the course markings.

I knew I would be beating myself up over this mistake for a long, long time, but I wanted to see how well I did despite this debacle.  Set Up Events had several computers stationed with instant results and placings so I headed over to see what else my mistake cost me.  NO RESULTS FOUND kept flashing up on the screen anytime I tried to enter my number or name.  After consulting with Set Up, it was determined that somehow I had a faulty bib.  I felt like I might throw up.  I did this race.  I even did extra, and now I might not get credit for it. I really felt sick.  Luckily, I was able to pull up my Garmin and show the organizers my finish time.  They entered it in manually and my finish time became official.  Despite these flubs, the day was still pretty awesome and hanging out with my running peeps is always worthwhile.  I am bound and determined to hit that sub 25 though, so on to the next race!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hilton Head Marathon: Take Two

The last time I attempted to run the HH Marathon, I had to pull out at the half and earn my first ever DNF.  The mental beating I gave myself after that race was brutal, and I felt like I should be walking around wearing some sort of scarlet letter as punishment.  I vowed that I would have redemption, even if it meant that I would have to walk or crawl the marathon in order to cross that finish line, the following year.  And I quite literally spent the next 365 days training for this race.

And when I say I trained, I mean I trained.  I spent the early spring and summer doing cross training with triathlons, but as soon as July hit, I started marathon training with Lauren for a marathon she was doing in October.  And then as soon as that was over, I started preparing for Hilton Head.  To say I was ready for this marathon to be over with was an understatement.  I couldn't wait for the race to be over so I could go out and do a run for pleasure and not have to do a prescribed workout!

God, I was ready for this race.  I was chomping at the bit to make up for last year's embarrassing DNF, and I was eager to see what I could do.  But sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong.  Sometimes you can go into a race completely prepared but still get the rug yanked out from underneath you.  I could control so many things in my training, but I could not control the weather.  And the weather that weekend was something else.

On the morning of the race, the temperature was 60 degrees.  Sixty degrees!  That is 20 degrees above normal!  I run marathons in the winter because IT IS WINTER.  My body has shown me time and time again that I cannot run long distance if the temperatures are over 50.  And not only was it 60 degrees, but it was also 94% humidity!  There was a layer of fog and a lot of clouds as Lauren and I drove out to the race site.  We both commented that at least the fog and clouds would keep the sun out.  That seemed like the only positive we could find with our current weather situation.  I knew any hope of having a stellar race was out the window, but I thought at least maybe I could salvage some sort of respectable finishing time.  I decided to start out very conservative and then see how I felt at the half.  In my mind, I thought I could possibly run better for the second half if I purposely went slower the first half.

My plan worked perfectly until mile 6.  At this point, the fog lifted, the clouds melted away and a hot sun emerged.  By mile six, I was struggling, but I still had my head above water.  But with each passing mile, it became harder and harder to run.  My clothes were drenched from sweat.  My mouth felt like cotton.  I felt like I was running in the middle of summer.  At mile 13, I opted to start walk/run to try and conserve energy.  By mile 14, I was done.  So done.  I knew I had to finish, but I wasn't sure I could run.  I tried speed walking but even that seemed too taxing.  I kept telling myself to keep moving forward, keep moving, just keep on moving.  Those last 12 miles felt like eternity.  I finally saw Lauren at mile 19.  She was just as miserable as I was, but at least she was running.  She would finish a full hour before me and I felt horrible making her wait on me to finish.  But I had to finish.  As horrible as I felt, the desire to cross the finish line drove me forward.  My legs ached, my toes cramped (a new side effect that has begun popping up), my eyes burned from all the salt and sweat that kept dripping on my face, and my fingers were swollen up like sausages.  I was sunburned (the temps reached low 70s!) and I was miserable, but I finally crossed the finish line in 5:33.  Yes, you read that right, 5:33.

By far this is the worst marathon that I have ever run, and it frustrates me in so many ways that I performed so poorly.  I know I cannot control the weather, but damn it, I was trained and ready for this race!  The "what ifs" have really been eating at me.  I have even been looking at other marathons in the hopes that perhaps I could still cram one in, but with the weather remaining in the 70s for the next few weeks, I feel like my marathon window has closed.  From now on, I have to select marathons that I know will be in cold temps which means looking up north for races instead of at the beach. 

While it would be easy to keep my time quiet, not write a race report or share it on social media, I refuse to do that.   I earned this time, so I am not going to hide and pretend it didn't happen.  This was a BAD race.  There will be more bad races for me in the future, I promise.  But there will also be good ones.  And while the bad races serve as painful lessons, the good ones make those lessons worthwhile.  Here's to the next race; may it be a good one!