I rang in 2017 by doing a 50K on New Year's Eve, and then if that wasn't crazy enough, I registered for Hilton Head Island marathon the next day!
Coming down off an ultra and then realizing you have a marathon in a little over a month really throws a wrench into your training plans. Ideally, I would have liked to have taken a week (or month!) off from running to allow my legs some rest after the ultra, but I had a marathon on the horizon, so I only took three days off. By the weekend, I was back to high mileage training. I could feel some definite fatigue on hills, so I took it easy and just tried to get in some distance training on tired legs. I only had the month of January to prepare for this race, so I did a couple 16 milers and just tried to keep my fitness up.
Chris and I both caught some sort of crud two weeks before the marathon (which Chris still can't seem to shake), so I ended up doing a two week taper which is more than I had intended. My last long run leading up the race went extremely well, so I was cautiously optimistic that everything might go according to plan....NOT! You can never predict what Mother Nature is going to do and she really decided to mess with me. I run much better in cold temps (heat is my kryptonite), and I had fully expected HH to be in the mid 30s- low 50s for race day. I was not expecting to see temps in the 50s for the start and mid 70s for finish! Yikes!
My suffer buddy for this race was Lauren, who is a running fanatic, but also someone who possesses an impressive running results pedigree. We drove down Friday afternoon, picked up our packets, and grabbed a bite of dinner. As soon as I ate my dinner, my stomach started giving me issues. I figured it was stress induced and would work itself out by the next morning, but when I woke up, it still hurt. I ran a couple quick back and forth in the hotel room to see if I could even start the race, and it seemed okay. I figured once the race began I would forget all about it.
Lauren and I had no intention of running this race together, but we ended up together for the first nine miles. We were hitting comfortable pace times that I was happy with even though there was a fairly strong headwind and a very steep bridge that we had to go over and back. I was hot and sweaty these first few miles but not miserable. But by mile nine something was wrong. I started feeling really bad, really quickly. Stomach pain, headache, nausea, and my pace just disintegrated. It was like letting the air out of a tire. Lauren disappeared, and I was suddenly wondering how I was going to run 17 more miles. I kept trying to get to mile 13, so I could assess, but it was taking forever. I began to wonder if I could just sit down somewhere. I was determined to reach the halfway point so I put my headphones in as a distraction, but eventually took them out because the sound of the music made my head hurt even worse. Several people passed me, each one covered in shiny sheen of sweat, and that's when I noticed that I wasn't sweating...at all! I sweat like a pig, and I should have been absolutely drenched from the heat. But I wasn't; in fact, I was almost chilled. This really scared me since I only have one kidney. I told myself I could walk the remaining 13 miles, but I wasn't sure what good I would be doing my body, or if I could even make the cutoff by walking. I knew Chris was still sick at home, and I wondered if I didn't pick up what he had. The thought of torturing my solitary kidney for two-three more hours made me think that perhaps I should listen to my body for once, so when I finally made it to mile 13.1, the halfway mark, I told the timer I needed to stop.
I was at 2:06 on the clock by this point, so figured I would just catch a ride with the race people who were patrolling the course. Wrong! The timer told me there was no one who could come get me! I would have to walk all the way back to the finish, which was a very long way. Luckily, a man was waiting on his wife to come through. He offered to carry me back to the finish line. This man was a life saver! It was his wife's first marathon, and they were from Seattle. He was sympathetic and stood by quietly while I cried for a bit, and then loaded me up in his car and drove me back to Jarvis Creek Park. Once I made it back to the finish line, I had to report my DNF to race officials. They were kind enough to give me credit for the half marathon, but included my 24 minute car ride in my time. Since my time was transferred over to the half, you could argue that there isn't no DNF next to my name, but since I did not finish the race I registered for and intended to do it's a DNF in my eyes.
I have never DNF'd a race before. While it was a difficult decision, I have come to peace with it. For some reason, we place a great amount of shame on people who DNF. We do not consider what they may be going through or how this decision made them feel; we just lump them into the "quitter" category and then make ourselves feel superior by saying things like "I would NEVER DNF a race."
Yes, there is something to be said for toughing it out and finishing what you started no matter how bad it gets (I have mad respect for pros who do this, especially) but anyone who has DNF'd has come to this decision after a lot of grappling, soul searching, and self loathing. I felt like Cersei in Game of Thrones walking into the park to the finish line table with my chip. I assumed everyone would line up behind me and start yelling "Shame! Shame!" I found an isolated place in the woods to cry and come to grips with my decision. Like I said, it was not easy, but the one thing I have learned since my diagnosis is to listen more to my body. It's the only one I've got, and no extra 13 miles was worth doing some irreparable damage. There will be other races in my future. There will probably be another DNF. But undoubtedly there will be many more finishes. This is not the end.
In thirteen years of racing, this was my first DNF, so my entrance into the DNF Club is long overdue. I usually race ten races or more a year, so the odds were starting to get stacked against me. I knew it was coming sometime, which doesn't make it any easier, but I am a firm believer in learning from all things, and this was definitely a learning experience. I learned you cannot DNF if you never make it to the starting line. Many people never make it to the start line despite having signed up, and some people are so afraid of failure that they never even pull the registration trigger at all. I am not afraid to toe the line. I am not afraid of failure. I understand that on any given day something might happen that will prevent me from finishing, and I am willing to take that risk. That is part of racing. Failure happens to all of us. It's the getting back up, straightening your ponytail, and trying again that really matters. I was brave enough to start, smart enough to call it a day, and foolish enough to want to try again. And again. And again. I may have DNF'd, but that doesn't make me a quitter.
See you at the next start line.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Monday, January 2, 2017
|So glad this girl enjoys suffering as much as me!|
It would be easy after doing that October marathon to just train in the winter and not do any more running races, but I wanted to really force myself out of my comfort zone; after all, that is how we grow, right? I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and I knew that in order to keep myself motivated and accountable (and therefore, uncomfortable), I had to do some more running races. Racing rewards me for all the hard work I have been doing and it serves as a perfect assessment; I get instant results and feedback and it keeps me from getting too comfortable. I learn lessons from racing that I would never learn in training. I crave this accountability.
Another thing I wanted to do this year was complete a 50K. While I have done the Glenn Thrift Challenge, a 36 mile trail run, a couple times before, it was always an untimed, unofficial event that I did with friends for fun. It wasn't something that I actually raced. I wanted to do a 50K that was ALL running just to see what I could do. And I wanted to do it on the road, since that is where I feel most comfortable running, but finding road ultras are almost impossible. I knew that I could just easily run 31 miles on my own, but I also knew how tempting and easy it would be to pause my watch to take a potty break, stop to refuel, take off a layer of clothes, or stop meet up with friends. I needed an ultra that had a clock that I would race against that would hold me accountable. When I found the Resolution Run in TR put on by Upstate Ultras, I knew I had found my race. The race was free (participants were asked to donate to a designated cause and bring snacks for the group aid station); it was an honor system race without official timing mats or chips, and it helped support our local running community. I was sold.
This race featured three different time frames, a 3hr, 6hr, and 12hr, and runners would complete as many miles as they could in their respective time limit. I wanted to run 31 miles, the standard distance for an ultra, so Lauren (who had agreed to suffer alongside me) and I decided that we would
sign up for the six hour group and race against that time limit. Our hope was that we would finish in the six hour window, but if we didn't, that was okay, too.
The race was held at Trailblazer Park and the 12hr group began at 7am. Since it was NYE and the Clemson game was on that evening, Lauren and I decided to start at 7am with the 12 hr group. Since there was no official timing chips or bib numbers participants were asked to have their own cup that they could put rocks in to self monitor the number of laps they had run. Each lap was a 2 mile loop and would be run on a fairly technical trail and part of the old TR track. The benefit of such a short loop was that I didn't have to carry any fluids and I could set up my own personal aid station. It was 28 degrees race morning, so Lauren and I each had a bag full of hand warmers, short sleeve and long sleeve tops, and several sets of gloves, plus our fluids, gels, and sport beans. Since it was still dark at 7am, we had to wear headlamps and ear warmers for the first two laps.
Since my goal was to run a 50K against a clock and the race was not an "officially timed" race with numerous local runners popping in and out over the duration of the day, Lauren and I had already decided ahead of time that we would not restrict ourselves to the designated course. I explained my situation to the race director who said it was fine if I ran my own route provided I didn't confuse any other racers. Since I had six hours to run 31 miles, we decided to jump off the course after the second loop and run 2-4 mile loops on the road. Since I have a marathon in February, I didn't want to risk getting hurt running trails with no prior training, and I wanted to run a similar pace that I would in the marathon. Lauren and I decided we would continue to loop back to our aid station on a regular basis so we could refuel, take off layers, and place rocks in our cups.
Things were going amazingly well (thanks, Amanda Whitley for the 13 miles of company!) until mile 22. Miles 22-26 seem to freeze in time. Lauren even started asking me if my Garmin had lost its signal because each mile seemed to take so long. But we finally made it to mile 26, and I was pleased to see that I was ten minutes faster than I was at the Spinx Marathon in October. I had argued with Lauren when we decided to tackle a 50K that 31 miles wouldn't be any harder than a marathon because it was only five more miles. What was five more miles? Apparently it is a lot! I now know why you stop after a 26.2! Those last five miles were a test of true endurance. Until mile 26, my feet were the main thing hurting me, but by mile 27 my legs were starting to hurt all over along with my shoulders, and my back, and my wrist was throbbing from my Garmin. My pace had slowed significantly those last five miles as well. Lauren and I had walked once (about 20 ft when we hit mile 26 to celebrate another marathon) and the only time I had stopped moving at all was to use the restroom, drink fluid and fuel, or strip off layers of clothes (despite the cold temps and wind, I ended up in a tank and shorts for the last 10 miles).
|Starting our last four miles. I was pretty|
|Lauren was her usual chipper self.|
Our final mile was run on the TR track and knowing this was the final push, I felt my adrenaline start to surge. When I finally hit 31 miles in front of the amphitheater and saw my time, 5:28, I was thrilled. I finished well within my six hour time frame and pushed myself to achieve something that I would not have thought possible just a few years ago. Three years ago I celebrated New Year's Eve in the hospital following a nephrectomy. Two years ago, I had just finished my final round of chemo and spent New Year's Eve in bed feeling sick. One year ago, I was at home questioning whether I could successfully run long distance again after having suffered a painful 7 hr marathon at IM Chatty. But this year on New Year's Eve I ran a solid 31 miles and proved to myself that "she believed she could, so she did."
|Crossing the finish line.|
|Racing against this clock really forced me to be accountable.|
|Lauren finishing her 31.|
|Adding the final rock to her cup!|
I still have a lot to prove to myself in regards to running. And I still have a score I need to settle with an iron distance race sometime in the future. But that future is still far away. Right now I am enjoying spending time with shorter distances again, supporting my local tri community, and having time left in my day to spend time with my friends, pets, family, and my love. I am finding myself again, this athlete I thought I lost to cancer three years ago, and I am excited to see what she can do in 2017!
|Trying to sit down was very painful.|
|Things were starting to really throb and hurt once I sat down.|
|Another goal was to run over 1,000 miles this year. |
This does not reflect all the miles I did on the
treadmill though, only outside miles.
Monday, November 21, 2016
|So proud of this man!|
The weather in South Carolina has been crazy warm, so I assumed that this Saturday would be no different. When I checked the morning temps and saw 40 degree plus temps, I felt assured that a tank top and shorts would be fine, but I failed to realize that my thermometer did not factor in wind. And the wind was blowing hard. And it was a cold wind at that! Sixteen mph plus winds made the temps feel more like the 30s, so standing at the start line in my shorts and tank top turned me into a popsicle.
Another factor that I did not really think about very carefully was that this was a 5K TRAIL race. While I love spending time in the woods, I am not big on racing through them. Trail racing requires you to constantly look down, it is hard to find a solid pace, and it requires you to have nimble and solid footing. I like to stop and look around at things when I am in the woods, I hate speeding up and slowing down or not being able to get around someone in front of me, and my neuropathy makes it hard for me to not stumble or trip over rocks and roots. Hiking or leisurely running on trails is something I enjoy, but racing trails is NOT for me. Give me a fun hike in the woods with my dog and boyfriend any day, but let me do my racing on the roads.
Luckily, the woods did provide a shield against the wind, so I warmed up quickly and ended up feeling great in my tank, shorts, and compression socks. Of course, I started out way too hard and found myself huffing and puffing immediately. There was a lot of people dodging on the trail which forces you to figure out how and where you are going to pass someone or how to get over if you hear someone passing you. I was passed by several people, but I also passed quite a few. There were a lot of uphills and downhills and turns which required me to really slow down lest I bust my butt on the leaves which proved to be fairly slick in places. There were some wooden bridges and some board crossings, some stairs, and some paved sections (for which I was extremely grateful). I had to be super careful with my footing and I felt like I was coming to a complete standstill at times when I had to step on roots and rocks to navigate the course. I am not sure I even lifted my head the entire time for fear that I might fall. I could not wait for this race to be over! When I finally crossed the finish line, out of breath, unable to speak, and completely spent, I saw that my time was 28:03! This is considerably slower than what my road 5Ks are, so it shows you how much this trail race slowed me down. I congratulated several of the fast women who passed me and beat me and then waited on my parents to finish walking their 5K.
|Male and Female 40-49 year old|
age group winners!
It was a great day to be able to give back to the group of people who have helped my dad and family so much and to meet many of the therapists who worked with my father during his recovery process. I would have never been able to imagine a year ago that my father would be able to participate in a 5K race, so being able to share this event with him was pretty special.
I am still very much in love with running right now, so I am allowing myself to completely be immersed in the sport. I have several big running races coming up before tri season starts back up, so I am excited about what this year's running season will bring.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
This marathon won out over others mainly because the thought of being able to sleep in my own bed fascinated me. I had never run a marathon that didn't involve traveling the day before, figuring out logistics with packet pick up and where to eat dinner, wondering about the course, and all the usual stress that comes with doing an out of town race. With this race, I didn't have to worry about any of that. I could train on as much of the course as I wanted, eat dinner at my own house, sleep in my own bed, and drive 15 minutes after the race and be HOME! I also loved the idea of doing a marathon early in the running season. All my other stand alone marathons were in February or March, so being able to have a marathon under my belt BEFORE winter running season set in was a big win. I liked the idea that I could race this marathon, take some time off and still pick back up with my friends for winter running races. And Lauren Cason, one of those crazy people who just loves to run for the fun of it, agreed to do all my long training runs with me. Seriously. She likes to run 20 milers for no reason.
|Representin' the Big Blue R, Team Rev3!|
I decided this race would be an experiment....could I still do a marathon without crazy pain in my feet and back or was I really "out" when it came to long distance running. I knew what I used to be capable of when running marathons, but I had enough sense to know that I probably wouldn't hit those times, even though it didn't keep me from wishing. I opted to have a very loosely structured program since I had no idea what would happen when I started increasing the miles. During the week, I ran anywhere from 3-8 miles on any given day, quite literally depending on how I felt that day. Some weeks I would run five times a week; others I would run only two. On the weekends, I would do one long run that tried to simulate race conditions. I had some really good long runs, and I had some really bad long runs. It would be a toss up as to which I had on race day.
|Twenty degrees cooler would have been nice!|
Mile 1-6 were fast and steady. I was hitting my "in my dreams" goal splits, so I had to force myself to pull back some because I knew when the sun came out, I would be crying.
Mile 7-8 took runners through the Furman campus, and I was happy to see my parents and Forrest, Regina, and Scottie cheering, but my happiness soon dissipated when we ran EVERY FREAKING HILL in Furman except for one. My legs were not feeling this whole "hill" thing, so I started to slow down and focus on the "what I think I am capable of" goal.
Miles 9-13 were back on the SRT and a gradual incline that would take us to TR. I hit the halfway point of the race exactly where I wanted to be, but things started to fall apart shortly thereafter.
Miles 14-15 went through a neighborhood with a crazy hill and then right through someone's backyard! Had I not known ahead of time about this new course change, I would have thought I was off course, but we literally ran through a homeowner's front and back yard and through a door in his privacy fence.
Miles 16-19 had runners go back down the SRT and back through Furman campus. At this point, the sun was OUT and I was getting hot and tired. My Garmin decided to drop its signal during this segment of the race and I was never able to get it to reload. I was forced to go by the overall time on my watch instead. I switch from "what I think I am capable of" goal to "realistic" goal.
|Mile 19. The pain on my face says how unhappy my quads were.|
Miles 20-25 was a mental argument between my head which told me to keep going and my quads which were telling me to walk. My quads won out and I started walking at the mile 21 marker. I would walk a little bit, run a little bit, walk a lot, run a tiny bit. I had a close encounter with a cat who really wanted me to take him home with me at mile 21 (I seriously considered how I could finish the race with a cat slung across the back of my neck). I am no longer in "realistic" goal mode, but am instead in "God, please let this be over" mode. After a quick convo with another friend (and quick dog pet) at mile 23, I was finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mile 25 had another teacher friend and his wife and dog cheering me on (with a sign, even!) and I was at Fluor Field.
Mile 26 consisted of me rounding the bases of the baseball stadium (a nice was to end a marathon) to finish in 4:37 minutes. I was exhausted, hurting, and hot, but I was pretty damn happy to be done. Once I got home, had a hot shower and something to eat, I could objectively rehash the race and what went wrong and what I got right.
|Lauren was fifth in her age group and thirteenth overall! I was just happy|
to get a Pepsi after the race!
|Could be better, but could have also been a whole lot worse!|
What I got wrong:
- The heat! Not anything I could do about this, but man, was it hot! I never want to do a marathon in temps that high. Give me cold temps any day!
- The hills! Sure I trained on some hills, but most of my stand alone marathons have been on flat courses. This made a big difference since the times I was trying to hit for my splits were based on times I did on flat courses. Hills tear up your legs, so by the time I finished with the hills at mile 19, my legs had had enough.
- Crazy Compression socks for my feet and calves. My neuropathy is the biggest thing holding me back from long distance racing, so I took a chance on this company (after trying several others) and I had no issues with my feet! No crazy pain or numbness (out of the ordinary) and no blisters! Definitely placing another order of these socks soon!
- Choosing a race in my backyard enabled me to see friends and family and run on a course that was familiar to me. Plus, living 15 minutes from the race site is a win-win.
- No stomach issues! I used to have an iron gut, but ever since my surgery, my stomach seems to hate any fluid or gels on the run. It's been a real tight rope act to try and get enough fuel in my system without it crashing. I was pretty stoked to scored the perfect balance on race day.
- Not picking up a stray cat to take home.
- Being able to complete a marathon! Suck it, cancer!
So my experiment was a huge success! I had originally thought when I signed up that my realistic goal would be to finish in under 5 hours, but I changed this goal to 4:30 after my last 20 miler. I am not upset about missing this goal at all considering that my last marathon at IM Chatty was 7 hours! But perhaps the best part in knowing I can still do marathons is knowing that I still have several months left before tri season starts to run another marathon!
Happy running, y'all!
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
|The 2106 Greenville Sprint means I still have 90 years|
Since this was a sprint race which fell right after Logan, I really didn't do anything to prepare for the race. I swam once, ran twice, and rode my bike the Saturday before the race. I woke up Sunday morning feeling calm and happy and really enjoyed chatting with everyone before the race. The mood was relaxed and upbeat since a lot of athletes were also finishing their season with this race. I did not begin to feel sickly nervous until we had to line up for the swim start. Then my stomach started doing its usual flip flopping and my heart rate just about went through the roof watching the elites start their swim. When it came time for me to jump in the pool, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. If I had to sign up for triathlons based on how anxious I felt before the race, I would never do one. Luckily, my nerves settle as soon as I start swimming and by the time I cross the finish line, I have all but forgotten how horrible I felt at the start.
Lots of people were diving into the water, but I opted to jump for fear that my goggles would leak. I should have dove in because my goggles filled up with water immediately, something that has never happened before. I wear contacts, so this made for some painful and squinty swimming, but I kept my eyes squinted on the black line and made my way down the lanes. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who had seeded themselves incorrectly on the swim and I encountered massive pile ups at the first three lane changes. I felt like I was in a water polo match with all the shoving and colliding that was going on. Finally, after 200m I found room to swim and I started finding my groove. I hit the ladder at exactly 8:08 minutes, but had to run to transition giving me a total swim of 8:28, slower than previous times, but considering the congestion, I was pretty happy.
My fastest bike at this race was in 2011 and that was a 44 minute bike split. I knew I would be no where near that time, but I felt like I should be close to or even under the 49 minute mark which was my split in 2013. I was riding my training wheels and not my race wheels which would slow me down some, but the course is one I was very familiar with and comfortable riding. Ben, a friend of mine, passed me immediately on the bike and I used him as a chase rabbit for almost all of the bike course. Every time I wanted to sit up and slack off a little, I thought about Ben getting farther away, so I kept hammering and trying to keep him in my sights. When I cruised into transition at 46 minutes, I was so happy that Ben had been there for me to chase because I would have never hit that time otherwise. My bike time this year was three minutes faster than 2013, so I was pretty happy to hit 46 min. especially on training wheels.
|courtesy of Pace Running|
Unfortunately, chasing Ben came with a high price. My legs were not wanting to have any part of the run course. I had to have a real mental fight with myself to not walk. Since there were Berea students volunteering out of the course and at aid stations, I had to really fight to smile, act happy, and look like I was running strongly. As soon as I would pass them, I would feel my shoulders slouch, my feet start to shuffle, and my face turn back to one of pain. But knowing that Berea students were out on the course kept me motivated and forced me to push through the pain that I was feeling. When I finally headed down the dirt access road to the finish line, I was suffering, but I knew that my race was almost over so I could endure just a few more minutes.
|courtesy of Pace Running|
|courtesy of Pace Running|
My finish time was 1:22 which is my third fastest time at this course. This made me happy on many levels, but mainly I was happy at my performance having just raced a hard half the week before. I beat my 2013 time (the last time I raced) by 3 minutes which was also reason to celebrate, and my time was good enough to land me the second place podium spot which is always nice. I had a pretty solid season this year and plan to work on my weak areas in the off season. This season was all about transformation, and I feel that I transformed myself into an athlete that in many ways closely mirrored the one I used to be before my cancer diagnosis. While I am not the same athlete I used to be (and never will be), being able to hit some of my old times has been both rewarding and fulfilling, and it has given me motivation and drive for next season. As I transition from triathlon training to running, I plan to keep swimming and biking once a week until the winter months and will then take a complete hiatus to recharge my batteries. I have been incredibly lucky and fortunate to have had such an amazing season and cannot wait to tackle 2017!
Total Time: 1:22:25 (2nd in age group, 14th overall)
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
|Photo credit: Joanna Kelly|
It's been a year since my 2015 debacle at the Lake Logan Half. That demon race was one of the most physically painful races I have ever done, and the memory of that agony almost kept me from signing up for it again in 2016. But being the glutton for punishment that I am, I pulled the trigger and vowed that this year would be A LOT different. This race would not get the better of me this time. No, this time, I would conquer this demon and show it who is boss!
Last year, I went into Logan with little training, and I was still recovering from the residual effects of chemo treatments, not to mention the pain from physical scarring that my poor backside and inner thigh were still feeling from my cancer surgery. All this, combined with severe neuropathy in my feet, made for a long, agonizing day. I hate it when races get the better or me, and this race definitely had my number, so my goal this year was to conquer the demon by (#1) beating my time from last year and (#2) feel good doing it.
For this year's race, I trained pretty heavily all summer. I felt like I had a good, solid base, and my race times were pretty much where I thought they should be at this point in the season. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
|Swimmers coming in. Photo Credit: Jenn Arends|
|Coming out of the water in my twelve year old wetsuit!|
Photo credit: Nicole Rambsey
|Photo Credit: Nicole Ramsbey|
The bike ride at Logan is fun, but also challenging. It has some hills and false flats, but some great descents as well. The first 25 miles are awesome, but then the climbing begins and a really long climb around mile 40-41 will tear your legs off if you are not ready for it. The hardest thing for me on the bike during any race is riding conservatively. I have to remind myself that there is still a run section to do after the bike, so I can't just go wide open. The problem was determining just how hard to go without overdoing it. In the past, I had this figured out pretty well, but with everything that has happened with me the past two years, especially with my feet, I feel like I am starting from scratch. So I rode this bike course fairly restrained. I allowed myself to hammer the flats and downhills, but I really tried to save my legs on the hills. I also forced myself to slow down in order to take in nutrition and fluids. What was really remarkable about the bike at this year's race was how much better I felt than last year. By the time I finished the bike last year, I was having back and leg pain, my feet were numb and painful, and I wanted to quit. This year, I felt pretty strong and most importantly, I was HAPPY! I actually enjoyed the bike course and although I was glad to be done, I felt like I could have ridden a lot longer.
|Finishing the bike|
Photo Credit: Jenn Arends
When I started the run, I felt pretty comfortable. I was hurting, but not any more than I should be hurting at this point in a half. I was running a slower pace than I had in training, but this was to be expected in the run portion of a half. I wanted to run steady and consistent, so I trudged my way up the first three miles (mainly uphill) and tried to improve my pace on the downhill portion on the next three miles. Since this is a two loop course, I knew I would have to do the three mile uphill portion twice, and I was not looking forward to it. When I started the second loop, I was pretty happy with the way things were shaping up. At the pace I was going, I would take almost 20 minutes off my run time from last year. This motivated me and around mile 8, I decided I would walk the aid station in order to drink more. Big mistake. As soon as I stopped running, my body took this to mean that I was done for the day. It was already feeling cantankerous and my legs seemed to just shut down. When I started back running, I immediately got stitches in both sides (maybe I drank too much at the aid station?) and had to walk again. I got really angry with myself for walking. I was watching my time slip through my fingers, and I was furious. I cussed the race for all it was worth and swore I would never do it again. My body was obviously not cut out for half racing anymore. This walk/run battle ensued all the way to the 10 mile mark and then I forced myself to run without stopping for the next mile. At mile 11, I walked again and then managed to run all the way to mile 12. Mile 12-13 was a major battle. I kept telling myself that I was almost done with the race, so I could suck it up for ten more minutes, but my body kept fighting back. I wanted to cry, but was too mad. I was able to run the last quarter mile to the finish line and finally crossed the line in a time of 6:34. My first words to Regina when I finished was "F*@& this race!" I was upset with my performance. I felt like I had crumbled under the pressure. The demon wasn't conquered; I had simply chased it for 70.3 miles.
|Wondering what I am doing by signing up for this race|
Photo Credit: Nicole Ramsbey
|Feeling good for loop one on the run|
It is always easy in hindsight to feel like you could have gone harder or could have done something differently in a race, and I start doing this as soon as the race is over. I had beat my time from last year by 18 minutes of which I was pretty proud, but I wasn't all that happy because I felt that I should have bested it by much more. I was satisfied with my race, but dissatisfied with it as well. I am my own worst critic, and usually find more to criticize in a race than praise. However, after talking with some friends and taking a few days to reflect, I tried to look at my performance in a different light. Instead of thinking about all the things my body didn't want to do or couldn't do, I thought about all the things I asked my body to do that it DID do. I asked my lungs, legs, and arms to swim 1.2 miles, and they happily obliged. I asked my legs after having a gracilis muscle cut out from my inner thigh that has left my leg permanently misshapen and scarred to power me up and down hills for 56 miles, and they obliged. I asked my numb, tingly neuropathic feet to carry me for 13.1 miles, and they obliged. I asked my body to push itself to its limits for 70.3 miles with just one kidney, with my colon having been rerouted, and with my posterior having been hacked on and cut up before doctors tried to stitch me back together. And my body obliged. I could list a lot of things that I wish had gone differently in this race in regards to my performance, but when I look at it how far I have come, and the racing possibilities that the future holds, I end up looking at this race in a completely different way. I gave this race my best, and at the end of the day, that is all I can hope for. Lake Logan continues to be that elusive demon triathlon that haunts me, but that just makes me want to work that much harder at conquering it in the future. One day, I will write a race report for this race and will call it "Conquering the Demon."
|My dad and the sign my step mom made for me on the course|
Numbers at a Glance:
Swim: 36:52 39:49
T1: 4:29 3:19
Bike: 3:26:59 3:17:54
T2: 2:52 2:23
Run: 2:41:20 2:31:21
Total Time: 6:52 6:34
Special thanks to all my friends and fellow competitors who cheered for me during this long, long day. I am lucky to have such a great crew who support me regardless of how I perform. Also thanks to my parents for surprising me out on the course and making my day. Thanks to Rev3, Powerbar, SBR, and Wattie Ink for being the best sponsors EVER. And of course, thanks to Chris for always holding down the fort at home, so I can chase my dreams and sometimes catch them.
Next up: Greenville Sprint!
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I raced Middle Tyger Sprint Triathlon the first weekend in June, but you may have noticed I never wrote a race report. Since this was my third race in three weeks, and it fell on the last week of school, I was certainly tired leading up to this race, but it was my heart, not my body that was having difficulty. On June 3rd, I learned of the deaths of two strong, wonderful women. One of these deaths was due to cancer, and while it was not completely unexpected it still knocked the wind out of me because it was the mother of one of my closest and dearest friends. When I think of Anne, I think of kindness, selflessness, but most notably, I think of grace. Anne Hembree was a beautiful person inside and out, and her passing still hurts. The second loss was that of Cristina Lindsey. Cristina excelled at everything she did: triathlons, cycling, equestrian events, motorcross, you name it. She was vivacious, fun, and full of energy. Her death took me completely by surprise, and I still can't believe that she is gone.
I raced that Saturday, but certainly wasn't feeling celebratory, and the race itself was a bit of a blur. Needless to say the words just wouldn't come when it came time to type up a race report, and as time kept slipping further and further away, I opted just not to write one.
So what have I been doing since June? Training, of course! Regina is competing in an IM in September, and since she was so great about training with me for my IM last year, I thought I would repay the favor. And what a difference a year makes! Last year when I was training for Chatty, I really struggled. Struggled isn't even the right word....suffered is a more apt word for it. Clearly, my body was not recovered from a year of surgery and chemo, and I pushed myself way too hard. Now a year later, I can tell a huge difference in my fitness. Now, long rides don't make me cry, and long runs don't result in me spending the rest of the day in bed. Instead, I feel pretty damn good afterwards. I do notice that I tire more quickly and stay fatigued longer than I used to before cancer, but for the most part, I feel almost like my old self. I have done several 50-70 miles rides on the bike, and while I don't plan on doing any 80-100 milers, I do plan on keeping my long distance rides around 60+ miles. And while I am slowly getting back my running speed, my feet continue to give me fits. Compression socks are the best solution to keeping my neuropathy at bay, but the summer heat and humidity makes it nearly impossible to wear knee high compression sleeves for long distance runs. I am making noticeable gains, but having numb feet really makes training difficult and frustrating at times. I was scheduled to race Rev3 Williamsburg on July 9, but some scheduling/personal issues made that race impossible, so I was happy to be able to race a local race at Furman University the following weekend.
Swamp Rabbit Race Report
|Being the early bird that I am, I was the first one racked on my row in transition!|
|Ready to head inside to start the swim!|
This is a 250 swim, with athletes swimming up and down in the same lane for every lane except the first and last lanes. This certainly seemed easy enough in theory. I lined up for the start, hit the water, and took off. Everything was going great....at first. When I got to the lanes where athletes were coming in both directions, I noticed that people were swimming towards me, on my side. This seemed odd. After I collided with about four people, I stopped swimming and looked around completely confused. Was I swimming on the wrong side of the lane? Had I ducked under a lane line that I shouldn't have? What was going on? I glanced at my Garmin and noticed that I was 25 yards off what I should have. This confused me even more. Had I missed a length? Was I going the wrong way? Would I be disqualified for cutting the course? How could I cut the course when I was swimming up and down each lane? Rattled and terribly confused I continued swimming wondering how I could have gotten pointed in the wrong direction on a pool swim. I decided that when I got to the final lane I would look at my Garmin. If I was still short, I would swim back up the lane (even though swimmers were getting out at the bottom of the lane) and get out on the other end to make up for my "missing" length. I did not want to cheat the course, cheat other athletes, or cheat myself. Sure enough, when I hit the last lane my Garmin showed me 25 yards short. I swam back up the lane despite everyone screaming at me to stop and got out at the other end of the pool. When lifeguards swarmed me, I explained that I somehow had missed a length and wanted to be honest with my distance. This entire fiasco cost me almost 60 seconds since I had to then run an extra 25 yards to get to the swim door exit. I was completely aggravated, and kept replaying the swim over and over in my mind as I headed into transition.
|We exited that building behind me and then had|
to run up this hill to get to transition!
The bike course for this race was 16.5 miles long and it covered rolling hills in TR that I was pretty familiar with. I was still pretty jacked up with adrenaline from my swim debacle, so I was able to pick off several riders immediately. I found myself chasing a Hub athlete, Ben, who was the perfect chase rabbit. I was able to over take him a couple times, but he would eventually catch me and overtake me in return. Each time he would pass me, I would try to keep him in my sights, but eventually he hit the nitrous button and left me in the dust. I could barely see him as a speck in the distance. but this motivated me to keep pushing hard for the rest of the ride. I rolled back into Furman in 52 minutes, the same time I had back in 2012. This was pretty exciting because I was probably in the best shape of my life in 2012. Coming anywhere close to my 2012 splits was gratifying to say the least, especially after the hell I had been through the past two years.
I started the run with heavy legs. I immediately began to chastise myself for chasing Ben so hard. I knew better than to blow myself up on the bike when there was still a run portion left, but what was done was done, so I tried to suck it up and make the most out of things. The run course covers a section of Furman that I run several times a week, so I knew every hill, turn, and sidewalk crack along the way. This played to my advantage as I knew exactly where to push and where to pull back. I was shocked when I glanced at my watch and saw I was running an 8:22 mile. It definitely felt a lot slower than that, and I wondered if I was reading my watch correctly. Since I clearly had trouble counting laps in the pool, perhaps I couldn't calculate my pace either. I kept going and finally hit the turn around. The mile and a half back to Furman was a blur. I really pushed myself to pick up the pace, but there were a couple hills at the end that just drained me. I managed to hold onto an 8:26 pace as I cruised into the finish line.
Total Finish Time: 1:26.32
|10 seconds off of second place, but the blame is completely on me.|
After catching my breath, looking at my splits, and replaying the swim portion of the race over in my mind (for about the 50th time), I made several conclusions: 1). I can't do math or count, apparently. For whatever reason the four men I collided with were on the wrong side of the swim lane. Maybe they were passing each other or maybe they didn't see me coming towards them, but I did not cut the swim course short. Instead I swam an extra 25 yards! There was no way I cut under a lane line (you only went under lane lines at one end of the pool and I hit all of those) as I finished behind the woman who started in front of me and I would have finished in front of her had I cut a lane. Since we jumped in the lane to start our swims, my Garmin didn't register the first 25 yards, hence the distance appearing to be short and confusing me more (like I said, I can't do math). All of this is on me, and I am okay with it. I would rather swim extra yards than not complete the required distance. This has given me and all my friends a lot to laugh about, but what can I say, I'm an overachiever. 2). While I did place in my age group, I was 10 seconds behind the second place female. Had I not swum the extra 25 yards, I would have easily taken second place. This stung at first, but again, all the blame falls on me, so I am okay with third. 3). Most importantly, I had the exact same finish time as I did in 2012. Even with the extra 25 yards! This is perhaps the most astounding revelation of the day because not only did I hit the same finish time, but my run split in 2016 was actually faster than 2012! This is HUGE considering the difficulties I have been having with my running. Needless to say, I was over the moon with my performance, especially coming off a heavy training week with no rest.
|My third place award.|
This race was a major confidence booster because Lake Logan 70.3 is rapidly approaching. Last year when I raced Lake Logan, I cried at the finish line and questioned whether I could ever do any sort of long distance racing again. The pain I felt at that race was so intense that I seriously debated not signing up this year. The bike course is insanely hilly which is bad enough, but the run was where I fell apart last year. However, I don't like having demons that haunt me, and Lake Logan is a big, ugly demon that I want to permanently vanquish, so I signed up. I am in way better shape than I was a year ago and Tri the Swamp Rabbit reinforced this. The next couple weeks will be heavy training followed by a week taper and then it's showtime. I am still incredibly anxious and fearful of doing this race due to the pain I felt last year, but I am ready to give it all I have. This race will be my "final exam" for the tri season, so I am hopeful that all the "studying" I have been doing will pay off!
Until next time, don't forget to be awesome!