Race: Buffalo Marathon
Place: Buffalo, New York
Date: May 25, 2014
“When you cross the finish line, no matter how slow or fast, it will change your life forever.” – Spirit of the Marathon
I want to point out the asterisks above, as this race was not one that I was running at my normal marathon pace. Nope. I agreed back in March to pace two of my friends, Kat and Janelle, to their hopes of a sub-4 finish in the Buffalo Marathon. This race was not about me or my goals…this was all about them. And I took this responsibility very seriously, mind you! I trained as I would if I were going to be the one racing…meaning all of my training runs I did as though I were running this race at my pace. I didn’t want to over-train or get cocky and think that I could run more because this race wasn’t going to be done at my “normal” pace. Nope. Like I said…I take my job as a pacer very, very seriously.
I know what you’re doing. You’re looking at that finish time and wondering what went wrong.
Well…I will get to that. And then I will reflect on what this race has taught me, in general, about the human spirit and the spirit of the marathon. But…let me start at the very beginning.
Fridays are usually hectic as it is, but this Friday just put me out-of-my-mind. I had tried to do most of my packing on Thursday, but I still had plenty to do that morning…plus a date with my spinning class at 5:30 a.m. Go figure. As I was racing on Sunday, I went to class, but kept the heavy down and just did what I was comfortable with. I didn’t want to wear out these legs. I had two people counting on me and I wasn’t about to let them down. I thought about skipping my class, but I figured I’d be in a car most of Saturday, so as long as I didn’t put too much resistance on the bike…I’d be fine.
I did manage to get everything packed up and loaded into the car. But I wasn’t Buffalo bound yet. New York was going to have to wait. I had to go to work for the entire day first. Then…then I could start my journey toward my sixth marathon this year. Whew. I headed into the office and made little to no use of my standing desk, once again, trying to keep as much pressure off these legs as possible. I wanted to get to that start line feeling ready and relaxed. It worked. I got through the entire work day without any issues, then packed up and headed out at 4:30 p.m. to head up to Columbus, Ohio. Jenn was going to make this journey with us for the marathon, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. YAY! But…this meant enduring the ride up to Columbus. But first…I stopped off at my local gluten-free bakery to pick up a pizza crust. I promised Kat, back when she was in town for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon that I’d bring her one of Annie May’s Sweet Café’s amazing gluten-free pizza crusts. And…while we were there, Cathy and I each ordered a sandwich to go to eat in the car on the way up to Jenn’s. We might have also picked up one of her vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies too. Maybe. Anyway, this plan to grab dinner worked out perfectly. An Annie May’s sandwich might be a new travel after work tradition.
Soon, we were on the road and making good time up to Columbus, Ohio. As we came through Cincinnati, Ohio, I asked Cathy if we were going to stop soon because the unsweetened iced tea and the water I had with dinner had gone right through me and I “really needed to pee.” TMI? Nah. Anyway, she said we’d stop at somewhere up the road…which turned into about an hour wait. Seriously. The information center she had wanted to stop at was closed…and already way further than I had hoped to go before I got my break. So…I was not happy. We finally pulled over at a gas station on the exit you would take if you were going to the Ohio Renaissance Festival. I went inside the BP and took care of business, only to be interrupted by a woman pounding on the door, declaring she had an emergency. Um…yeah…kinda busy…gotta wait. I peed as fast as I could…but she kept pounding and pissing me off. Do NOT piss off a runner who has been tapering. I washed my hands and hurried out of the bathroom, having her blow past me like I was doing it on purpose. UGH!! People suck.
Back on the road…and no more stops until we hit Jenn’s house somewhere around 9 p.m. Cathy and I changed out into more comfortable clothes and then we settled in to talk a bit and eat Jenn’s infamous (but to me it’s famous) Pink Salad. Mmmmm…just what I needed. Hit the freakin’ spot. I knew I needed to get up around 4 a.m. to do a shakeout run, stretch, shower, eat breakfast, and get out of the door in a timely manner to continue the journey up to Buffalo, New York on Saturday morning…so we were turning in earlier than normal.
My alarm went off at 4 a.m. and I immediately dropped my iPhone before I could turn it off. Whoops. I got up and got changed into my running clothes and headed out Jenn’s garage to do 3 very easy miles as a shakeout before my drive up for the marathon. I forgot that Jenn’s roads have storm drains in the center of the road, so those were some fun obstacles at first. HAHA! I finally just got off to the side, and ran a loop around her inner circle until I hit my miles for the day. I actually did it faster than I intended or felt like I was running…so my legs were definitely feeling good. I ducked back inside, shed the reflective gear and went to do my stretching. Jenn came down as I was finishing that up. And soon I was headed up to shower, wake up Cathy, and we were settling in for some gluten-free bagels for breakfast. Topped off with a Garlic and Herb cream cheese of deliciousness. It was like eating garlic bread. The car was loaded back up and we piled in…heading out for the long road to Buffalo, New York.
I was already tired from not sleeping much, so Jenn passed my pillow up and I dozed up until we made our first stop to put in some gas. There was a nice Starbucks attached to the gas station, so we all got one of their refreshers…mine…the Cool Lime (YUMMY!) before piling back into the car and making our way up to Erie, Pennsylvania. That was going to be our stop for lunch. Back when I ran the Hershey Half Marathon, we found a place called Picasso’s to eat dinner at on our way back to Jenn’s. They specialize in very unique sandwiches…and we fell in love with them. This was our lunch destination…and we got there just after they opened. We each got a sandwich and drink and settled in at a table. My Gluten-Free Venus de Milo Sandwich was fantastic. It was a combination of hummus, onions, baby spinach, tomato, muffaletta spread, carrots, avocado, and a roasted red pepper mayo, toasted on gluten-free bread (in the oven to keep it from being cross-contaminated). Seriously…delicious. Then, we ducked over to Wegmans (an awesome grocery store for those not familiar) to grab a few necessities for Sunday…like bananas and water and watermelon. Then…back on the road. Next stop…the Hyatt Regency Buffalo (the host hotel) where we were staying.
I had hoped to meet up with both Kat and Janelle at the the expo, but Kat was there earlier in the day and Janelle, honestly, was leaving as I was pulling in. Dang it. I was seeing Kat later that evening for dinner, but Janelle was not going to be able to make it. So, we all planned to meet up on Sunday morning with the 4 hour pace group. Deal. We pulled into the hotel and valet parked the car, hauling our stuff inside. I went to check in, and as I was running the marathon was gifted with a bottle of Gatorade. I signed a sneaker with how many marathons I had run and my best finishing time, was given two keys to the room (I gave them to Jenn and Cathy to handle…I am a zen runner on race weekends and want no responsibilities). We took our stuff up to the hotel room to drop it off and then headed out to walk through the walkways from the hotel to the expo center. Weirdly enough, there were no signs really directing anyone to where to find the expo…so we randomly followed some people and ended up making our way there. Let’s hear it for the blind leading the visually challenged!
The expo was small. We stepped inside and I got in line to get a plastic bag that contained some race information and my safety pins. From there, I had to wind my way through the vendors and other races there to find the tables in the back where packet pickup was happening. I went over to the side for the marathon (there is also a 5K and a half marathon), and gave my name. The teenager behind the table looked me up, grabbed my race bib and race shirt and passed it over to me. I thanked him, tucked it into the plastic bag and went to meet Jenn and Cathy over at the BondiBand table. HA! They knew I’d want to make a stop there. We didn’t spend too long digging through the BondiBands as I own most of them (it’s a sickness…I know!)…but I found two that fit my personality and I ended up getting those. It’s tradition! You never break tradition. We wound our way back through, stopping off at a few interesting sounding races…all of which are on weekends that don’t work for me…this year…and ended up at Bart Yasso’s talk.
I LOVE Bart Yasso and really want to incorporate the Yasso 800’s into my training…eventually. We listened to him talk, and when he finished up, I went to see if he would sign my book (I brought it with me!) and maybe get a picture with him. There wasn’t a long line…and before long I was up there and talking with him. He remembered me from Facebook (HA!) and just asked if I spelled Karen with a “K.” That was awesome. He was very kind and wrote me a nice message before taking a picture with me and wishing me luck on Sunday. With that…we made our way out of the expo and back to our hotel room, where we crashed until about 4:15 p.m., watching Food Network (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was on, followed by Guy’s Grocery Games). I took the time to do my evening stretches and some foam rolling so I wouldn’t have to worry about it after dinner and could focus more on getting race morning stuff together and getting to bed at a decent time.
All that did get accomplished before we headed back out to the streets of Buffalo and walked to our dinner destination, Merge, located on Delaware Avenue. We were early. The restaurant hadn’t even opened yet. But, we knew that would probably be the case. We left early to give us time to get lost and all. But at the first sense of us not knowing which way to go, Cathy asked the valet guys and we were immediately on track without the whole wander around town mess. Love nipping something in the bud. At 5 p.m., Kat and Adam (Kat’s boyfriend) arrived and we went inside for our dinner reservation. We were immediately seated and asked if we wanted something other than water to drink. I don’t do anything but water these days as it is…so I stuck with that. Then…it was menu time. I had looked at this menu DOZENS of times before…and I knew there was a gluten-free and vegan pizza option. That’s my traditional food before a race…but there were so many enticing dishes on this menu that I couldn’t get anywhere else…and I get good gluten-free pizza in Louisville. SO…now I was waffling on what I wanted for dinner and everyone else was ready. With the assistance of the waiter, I bucked tradition again and went with the Gluten-Free and Vegan Arugula Pesto Pasta, which was a basic brown rice fusilli pasta with local tomato, red onion, spinach and tossed with toasted walnuts. It was as amazing as it looked. Got a Gluten-Free and Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Spiced Berry Compote for dessert, which I split with Cathy. All of us talked for awhile, not much about running but about other stuff, until we were told they needed the table. So, with that, we parted ways. Cathy, Jenn and I walked back to the hotel room. and I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, put out my race clothes for the morning, plugged in my Garmin to charge, set the two wake-up alarms, and then…went to bed.
My first alarm got me up and I went through my routine before hitting the sack again for another hour. The second alarm rang and I was up and into the bathroom to change into my race gear. I had opted for a tank top, despite the 47 degree weather that morning. I had my homemade arm warmers for the start, figuring I’d shed them sometime in the race. My running skirt, my CEP calf sleeves, my Newton’s. I was ready to run. I put on my sunscreen and got my “epic race hair” done up before stretching. Jenn woke up just before I was to wake up both her and Cathy to get ready…so I just needed to worry about getting Cathy moving. I woke her up and then settled in to eat my cereal (a pre-race tradition for EVERY race). I took my time, relaxed, and occupied my mind with things other than the race. Both Cathy and Jenn grabbed the free granola from the expo and got something in their stomachs and soon, I was grabbing my banana and we were heading down to the lobby and outside to the starting area.
The start area hadn’t been opened to the runners in the full or half marathon yet…so everyone was sort of behind a barrier on the other side of the street. I saw pacers walk by and really wanted to go find my girls, but Cathy was like…”Um…good luck with that!” Which, sort of annoyed me so I was in a huff when the starting area was finally opened. But, she called me back and I settled down. I got hugs and was told to have a good race. Jenn told me that “The Power of Dean [Karnazes] Compelled Me” and not to “pants my poop.” This is tradition. It has to happen. With that, I left them to go find a spot near the start line and I went to hopefully find Janelle (who I hadn’t met yet in person) and Kat.
Janelle found me, actually…which was awesome. We were about 15 minutes away from race time. I was so happy to see her. She looked rested and ready to run. Perfect. I asked if she had seen Kat…and she hadn’t. But a few minutes later, miss Bright Green Arm Warmers was at our sides. We attempted to do some stretching in the start area but it was really crowded and moving around was not much of an option. Kat was talking to pretty much everyone…because I really think she knows everyone in Buffalo…and we did our best to keep our legs loose and limber in the chilly morning air. I pointed out that the girl in front of me had her shirt on inside out and we agreed that if it wasn’t three minutes to start time, we might have informed her…but it was too late now. The National Anthem was sung…and we were right in line with the 4-hour pace group. Right where I wanted to start. One moment later…runners were off. And we were making the march toward the start line. Kat doesn’t like to start running until she crosses that mat, so we kept a fast walk until we hit that start gate…and we were off. I spotted Cathy and Jenn immediately, flashed a peace sign…and fell into pace.
We stayed behind the pace group for the first mile, wanting to make sure we didn’t have the “fly and die” technique…wanting to go into this easy and work our way up. Kat and Janelle both liked this plan and that was what we worked at doing. But somewhere before we hit Mile 2, we got ahead of the pace group. I asked my girls how they felt about pace, and both agreed it was good. I told them that whenever they wanted to back off, just to say the word and we would. So, Kat did that every now and again, terrified of going out too fast and wanting to have that 4 hour pace group not too much behind or ahead of us at any time. As both seemed comfortable…we continued on. We hit that 5K mark feeling strong, and I once again checked on the pace. We backed it off a little per Kat’s request and continued on. I ditched my arm warmers somewhere around here as well. HA! Looking at my Garmin…we actually were keeping a very level, even pace for a good stretch of this race. It was awesome. It felt good. We all felt good. Kat gave me a bit of a tour as we were running, as this is where she grew up. I’m a history buff, so I found every bit of this fascinating. And…it made the miles fly by without us really paying attention to them at all. Before we knew it, we were at the 10K mark…feeling good. We rounded a corner, and Kat spotted Adam and went over to see him, but he told her to keep going as she was right on pace. And just a few feet up…was Cathy and Jenn. I spotted the donkey sign! I gave a big wave and a smile. It’s always nice to see familiar faces during a race…and we were only 1/4 of the way done. But…we were feeling amazing. So, on we went.
We kept this great pace (just under sub-9) up through the LaSalle Park area. We hit the waterfront, where the road narrowed quite a bit. The slow-up was welcome though…so we took the break and eased our way through the crowds. The waterfront was gorgeous! Honestly. I loved running this part of the race. Great breeze. Great views. The lake was stunning. We knew as we were going to be leaving the waterfront that photographers were stationed. And we spotted them up ahead. The three of us raised our arms for the shot…and that was when some jackass pushed Kat. Like…literally pushed her. RUDE! So, not sure how that shot is going to turn out. Asshat. We had now hit the 15K mark…and all of us were still feeling good and strong. My girls were rockstars! I asked about pace every now and again, wanting them to feel comfortable with it…and so far, they were.
Kat continued her guided tour as we ran around the Erie Basin Marina and back into town. She was elated when she noticed the course was going to take us past the First Niagara Center, where the Buffalo Sabers play hockey. She has season tickets…so she was glad the new course still ran past there. The sun was up now and there were no clouds in the sky. None. So it was warming up fast. We came through town, loving the shade that the buildings provided, but the heat was there. We hit the halfway point…and were pleasantly surprised to see both Jenn and Cathy standing right at the 13.1 marker to cheer us on. We were powering through that first half, maintaining a relatively even pace…backing off where necessary…and feeling awesome. We were just where we needed to be…right in between the 3:50:00 pacers and the 4-hour pace group. We were right on target.
But as we headed a few miles further in, the heat started to really affect Kat. She came to a walk on a hill around Mile 15, taking out her inhaler. We were ahead of schedule and the walk break was a welcome one on the hill, and once she fueled and took in some liquid, we were back on our way. We knocked out another mile back on our pace, but the 4-hour pace group had caught up to us. We decided to run just behind them for a little while. Good strategy. But as we came into Mile 16, going into 17…Kat slowed again and the pace group moved ahead. She was getting angry and frustrated with herself, but we were still ahead of the pace group so that was of some help to get her focused again. The fuel belt she was wearing wasn’t sitting right on her body, so Janelle asked if she wanted to try holding her bottle with Nuun in it and ditching the belt with her husband at Mile 17. Kat agreed so Janelle ran up ahead to find her husband, dump water out of one of her bottles, and get one ready for Kat. Kat was really struggling here and as we walked a bit through Mile 16.55, with her in tears and angry at having to walk, one of the volunteers checked to make sure she was okay, letting us know where we were in the race and asking if she needed any sort of attention. She waved him off and we both thanked him, and when we hit some road signs, we started to pick up the pace again, maintaining that until we met up with Janelle and her husband near Mile 17. We changed out the fuel pack for the handheld water and we were back on our way.
We were now in Delaware Park, which would last for a mile, where we then would enter back onto the streets and re-enter the park around Mile 20.5. As we were heading up the hill, Kat went to fuel with her Craisins. But they didn’t stay down. The heat was really getting to her…as she hadn’t had warm weather this year to train in. Buffalo was 40 degrees all day on Friday…and Saturday was slightly warmer, but with a cool breeze that made it feel cooler. We had a slight breeze, but the air was hot and the sun was relentless. Kat handed me the handheld bottle and tried to fuel again, this time to keep it down. I gave her one of my bottles on my fuel belt that had water inside. She took it…and this time…it all stayed down. She asked if I was okay holding onto the handheld bottle for her…and I said that was fine. Mind you, I hate running with things in my hands, but this was definitely more important. And…it would help me keep a steadier pace for Kat. But then the 4:10 pace group past and I saw that fight go out of her. She felt defeated, but I did what I could to get her to press on. We could at least try for her next goal of a PR. We came out of the park and it was a run walk method, with Janelle and I just wanting to keep Kat going. Finally, Janelle said she was starting to hurt, so she was going to put on her headphones and head for the finish line. We had tried to get her to do that earlier…but she stuck it out with us for some of it, even giving up her sub-4 finish to make sure Kat was okay. But we wished her luck and sent her on, telling her to let Cathy and Jenn know that we would be behind her.
I did my best to keep Kat going. The heat was really doing a number on her. She was getting dizzy and suffering from a headache. In addition, she said at some points she felt like she was going to pass out. I didn’t want that to happen, so I told her to walk when she needed. We were coming up around Mile 20 when one lone woman was standing on the road, shouting support to everyone. She saw Kat, who was crying, and honed in on her. It made me smile when I heard her say to Kat…”I see you, 890! You look so strong. Come on 890…you can do this. Push through, 890! I know you can do this. I know you want to run.” Kat started crying more, but this time tears of happiness, and her pace…picked up. It was the push she needed…from a random stranger. And as she ran up the hill…the woman said, “That’s it 890! Keep going!!” and other inspiring and motivating words. She was a rockstar. And, honestly, was able to do what I couldn’t. As we came back into Delaware Park, Kat said she had to use the bathroom and maybe that would help. The problem was…there were no port-a-potties on the course winding through the park. So, it was run, walk, run…until we were heading out of the park where there were some port-a-potties. Luckily one was not in use. I waited on the corner while she ducked into one. A minute later, we were back on the road and back to running. She felt better. And we now had just over 4 more miles to go. We were getting there. When the 4:20 pace group passed, she started crying again. And…she handed over her Garmin, saying she didn’t want it on anymore. Is trapped it onto my wrist and we moved on. It was better this way. She had been so focused on that pace and now…her disappointment was setting in. I kept assuring her that her primary goal was to finish…and I was going to get her to that line.
With only a few miles left, we were determined to go without stopping. Kat was determined now, despite the heat. She was sweating out salt, so I was trying to get her to take in as much water and electrolytes as possible. Her compression socks were starting to bother her, so she stopped to roll them down. Only, that felt worse as we started up again, so she pulled them back up. We ran and walked for the next few miles, doing what she needed. I pushed her here and there, telling her what landmarks we would hit and start jogging and picking up the pace…easing back into it. She listened to me…and did as I said…and she’d slow and walk when she needed to. Around Mile 24, she was done with the compression socks. So she pulled over to the side of the road and sat down, taking off her shoes and removing the socks. I ended up tying them to my fuel belt and she put her shoes back on and decided to finish the race without socks on. I told her she’d blister…and she said blisters already happened. Might as well be comfortable. A woman who was cheering on runners across the street asked if she was okay…and we said she was…and within moments, she was back on her feet and we were heading down into the next mile…slapping hands with college boys at the water stop. We walked a bit coming into Mile 25 and I could hear that crowd ahead. The finish line was getting closer. We picked it up…we backed it off…we walked when she needed it. She finished off her Nuun…she took in one last water stop…and we pressed on…walking to the edge of a building I pointed out…and then picking up that pace. We were in the home stretch and she was going to run it in.
We had made a deal to cross that finish line together. I was wrapped up in the excitement and my finisher’s kick was already there. She called me back, saying she wasn’t ready yet. She wanted to see that finish line. So…I fell back and we rounded through Niagara Square. And then…there it was…the finisher’s chute! We picked up our pace and sprinted…as fast as our legs could go. As we neared that finish line, we took each other’s hands…and crossed together. It was…by far…one of the most rewarding and memorable finishes I have had in my life. We hugged tightly and I told her how proud I was of her. And we moved out of the way so that she could try to catch her breath, regain her strength…get her medal…and get some ice from the medical tent.
After snagging an ice pack to put on the back of her neck, we headed back out, retrieving Mylar blankets and started down the chute. She spotted Adam and her mom and went to talk to them for a moment. And then…we went to get our picture taken for finishing. We moved further down the chute, retrieving water bottles and any snacks needed. She snagged an orange…good choice. And then we met up with Janelle, Cathy, Jenn, Janelle’s husband, Janelle’s dog (Domino), and Adam and Kat’s mom at the very end. We stood around talking for a little while and snapped a picture of the three of us with our medals. But then I needed to get up to the hotel room to shower off and change (as they were not allowing any late check-outs. Nope. Not at the host hotel!). Kat came with us because I forgot to give her the pizza the night before…and she changed while I went to shower. Cathy and Jenn packed everything up and when I stepped out of the shower…we were ready to head out.
Hugs all around and we were off.
So…my official results for the Buffalo Marathon are that I finished in a time of 4:32:44 (gun time) and 4:31: 36 (chip time) (for 26.49 miles). I was 832/1287 finishers overall. I was the 311/548 women to cross the finish line. And I was 64/108 in my age division. I can honestly say that this was the first time I ever crossed the finish line carrying more gear than I left with. HA! First time for everything!
Yes…there was a twinge of disappointment that came with this finish. But it wasn’t with the finishing time. It was watching a goal slip away from a good friend of mine, who worked her ass off to achieve it. Her body wasn’t ready for the heat, as she hadn’t trained in it yet. There were a few other factors as well. And the relentless sun did her in that day. But…she was not defeated. No matter how she felt, no matter how much she wanted to collapse and give up…she didn’t. Kat is a fighter. She’s strong and determined and stubborn as hell. And every time she fell back…I saw that flame in her eyes spark up…and she’d start to move again. There were plenty of tears shed at goals that weren’t reached, but ultimately, she proved not only her strength and her determination, but her worth out there on that course. I was so proud of her at that finish line. There was nowhere else I wanted to be than at her side that entire race, seeing her push through her own doubts. She is a fighter and she fought for this finish. She gave everything she had to reach that finish line. She finished strong. And every ounce of me has been inspired by her sheer determination and will to push through and see herself to that finish line. Her original goals fell to the wayside…but she finished. And ultimately...it’s not about finish times…it’s about finish lines. So often, as runners, we put so much emphasis on a new PR, a better time, faster, better, perfection. Those are all nice to accomplish and to have as goals, but we get so focused on that and sometimes we lose the actual joy of the run. We forget to have some fun. To enjoy it. To just take it in. When Kat crossed her finish line that morning…and when I gave her a tight hug, I told her just how proud I was of her. I still am. Best finish for me…ever.
Thank you, Kat…for inspiring me to push on when my self-doubts want me to stop. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. This is one race I will always point to and say…”She wanted to give up…but she never did.” For that…you are more than an inspiration. You’re my hero!
Race: Throo The Zoo 5K
Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: May 10, 2014
Less than 12 hours after arriving back at home from the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky, I was awake, dressed in running clothes once again, and heading out the door to run another 5K. Hi…I might be addicted to racing…again! HAHA!!
My legs were feeling a little tired, but good when I woke up early that morning so I could get in my physical therapy leg stretches prior to the race. I also brewed up a cup of coffee because…I gotta have my coffee. It’s required. Anyway, I stretched and enjoyed a leisurely morning…listening to the sound of the rain outside.
But…after eating some cereal and finishing the race prep stuff, there was a lull in the precipitation. I threw on a rain jacket though and Cathy and I headed back out to hop in the car and make our way to the Louisville Zoo…for another one of the races I seem to have a habit of running…the Throo The Zoo 5K.
The drive over was uneventful and rather easy. And, for once, we weren’t stuck in the long line of cars streaming into the zoo. Nope. Not this time. Cathy went some back way into the Louisville Zoo…and that worked like a charm. We were into the zoo and parked without any problems. As we got out of the car to find packet pickup…the rain kicked in again. We donned our hoods on our rain jackets and made our way toward the zoo entrance, where packet pickup was happening at some tables that were under cover.
Packet pickup was a breeze. I got my race bib and some safety pins at one table and then was sent over to another table to get my t-shirt. The shirt this year was light blue with a white tiger on it. LOVE! Cathy and I then walked back toward the car to toss the t-shirt in there and get me pinned up. Now, normally I would have just sat in the car for a little while and waited on the rain, which was now falling harder to pass…but this, apparently, wasn’t even crossing Cathy’s mind. She pinned me up and was up and walking toward where the start of the race was going to be. There were some tents set up…for Whole Foods (who were dishing up yogurt, berry & granola parfaits), and McDonalds (they had apple slices) and a table with bananas…and the Fleet Feet tent…which was PACKED with people. Cathy and I ducked under a tree…which wasn’t keeping us dry. And that’s when the lightning started. I made some comment about not being under trees during lightning and she got all miffy at me for the comment and…then Fleet Feet’s tent cleared out momentarily…so we ducked under that.
I spotted Laura and Mike from my local running group, as they took cover under the Whole Foods tent. The starting line was still being inflated, but the lightning was very active. Finally, as people started to line up at the start…the announcement came that the race would be delayed for 30 minutes. If there was still lightning, they would make the call on whether the race would be cancelled and rescheduled. After all, the zoo had to open and all at some point.
So, Cathy and I moved over to the Whole Foods tent to talk with Laura and Mike while we waited the official word from the organizers. I always like hanging out with these two. They are so much fun. Anyway…the lightning did stop soon after the race was delayed…and with the rain lightening up, Mike and Laura decided to try to get a light run in prior to the race. So, they headed out.
The announcement came that the race was going ahead, so I got out from under the tent and stepped into the rain. I kept my rain jacket on until about 5 minutes before the official start…maybe closer to 2 minutes…I won’t lie. Finally, I shed it, stepped away from my roomie and got into the starting line. I wasn’t up front, but I wasn’t too far behind it either. I knew my legs were shot from not only spin class on Friday, but also my hard race through Frankfort (with my new 5K PR!), Kentucky the night before. This wasn’t going to be a speedy 5K, but I was going to get these legs moving the best I could. We were all awaiting the horn to send us on our way…in the rain…and through the zoo.
That came soon after…and we were off.
Now, in the two previous years I have run the Throo The Zoo 5K, the course has been mostly through the surrounding streets and neighborhoods, with the last bit going into the zoo, and up Gorilla Hill, before sending us out of the zoo and around to the finish. So, usually it was maybe about the last mile and a half or something. But this year…they changed the course again and MOST of the race was actually done…inside the zoo. This made me so stupidly and incredibly happy.
The start of the race was damp, but we went out fast. I eased up immediately, knowing that my legs were already feeling the night before. But, I pressed on, because I was going to still take this as a challenge. This was not a course to PR on, because there would be narrow areas where only a few people could be across…and some steep inclines to deal with as well. This wasn’t a PR attempt for me, so I was okay with that. The first part of the race happened on the neighborhood roads, for less than half a mile. Then we made a left turn to enter through the back part of the zoo. Mike was standing on the corner cheering as I ran past. That was awesome. Into the zoo I went…where I encountered something akin to mud running. The path was a complete mess…mud everywhere. I was sad that I wore my new compression sleeves because I could feel the mud being kicked up on them already. Ah well…part of being a runner, I suppose. At least I wore my old Newton’s and not my new ones for my shoes that morning.
The next half mile was spent in the zoo itself. I could see quite a few animals as I ran past, which only made me smile. At Mile 1, we left the zoo to wind our way through a couple of the parking lots, past a water station, and then just after Mile 1.5…go back into the zoo for the next mile and a half. This was fun! I loved the variety of animals and the people I was running near or around. One thing that did peeve me off, however, was this dad who was running with his little girl. She was struggling and he turned around and told her that if she wanted to PR, she had to move it! She said her shoe was untied…so she stopped to tie it. I thought he was going to blow a gasket. But I ran past them and didn’t hear from them again. Who knows how that turned out.
After making a few climbs, and some downhills too, I wound my way out of the zoo, hitting Mile 3. The finish line was just ahead, so I put on the afterburners as much as I could, moving as quickly as I could to get across the line. I managed…with a much slower time that last year, indeed. By about a minute and a half. Back to back races are tough, man!
Cathy came over to congratulate me and I went to snag some water from the recovery area. I had a raffle ticket to deposit at the white tent, but Cathy told me to grab water while she dropped it in. I did just that and went to find her afterwards. She wasn’t sure if I placed or not in my age group, so we decided to hang around for a little while. This turned out to be a long, long while…actually. But at least at this point it had stopped raining.
As the race was finishing up, someone did come over to the tent to remind runners to get their raffle tickets into the drawing as that would start soon. I was now getting hungry, so I snagged some apples from the McDonalds table and Cathy got a parfait to at least keep the hunger at bay before we could go get gluten-free crepes at The Flea Off Market from our favorite food truck, Sweet ‘N Savory. They called over everyone in costume for the costume contest and then began some raffle drawings.
I didn’t win. Anything.
That pretty much sums it up. Finally…it was time for some awards. YAY!
They gave away the overall female, male, master, and grandmaster awards…and then…passed it off for the costume contest. At this point, I was starving and really ready to go get some food. But, we cheered those in costume to help decide the winners. The Incredible Kermit…FTW!! And the awards then came back…and I didn’t place in my division either. So…we decided to go get some food…finally!
Except…The Flea Off Market was postponed…so instead…we went to Annie May’s Sweet Café for breakfast sandwiches and some take-n-bake cinnamon rolls and take-n-bake mac & cheese. We ate our sammies…and then headed out to do some grocery shopping and some regular shopping…while killing time. We were meeting up with my good friend, and running buddy, Kelsie, at The Comfy Cow for ice cream at 2 p.m.
Anyway…the experience and the thrill of this run was what made it. The weather didn’t even dampen my spirits too much in the end. I actually found the challenge of back-to-back 5Ks difficult…but one I was really ready to just test myself on. Since the ankle injury, I haven’t been pushing my pace or myself much on my runs. This was a way to test my will to actually push myself…at least a little.
So, the official results of the Throo The Zoo 5K is that I finished the race in 23:45. I was okay with this time. Much slower than last year, but I ran hard just over 12 hours before this one…so…yeah…this was good for me. I was 55/1252 finishers overall. I was the 14/765 female finishers. And I was 5/130 people in my age division! I’ll take that!
It’s good to be back to running races again…of varying length. The 5K distance is not my strongest race because I’m not a sprinter. But…these back-to-back 5Ks were a great challenge and a good exercise for me. I can’t wait to run Throo The Zoo again next year. Preferably without the rain.
Race: Publix Georgia Marathon
Place: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: March 23, 2014
I must be out of my mind, right? I was just cleared to run this past Monday and went for a sprint in a 3K race in Frankfort, Kentucky. No pain. No problems. And I did some outside running throughout the week to what my training schedule would have been had I been able to properly train for a marathon distance.
Which…I haven’t. And…I didn’t. In fact, my longest run since the ankle sprain was done in Columbus, Ohio…around my friend’s neighborhood. And that was only 8 miles. Yep…not exactly going into this having logged double digit runs. AT ALL. Not since February…and I think the longest one I managed then was 10 miles.
This…is not the way I wanted to come into this run. But, when you badly sprain your ankle…there are few choices left to you. Unable to run outside…and then limited to a treadmill (NOT a tready girl…I get so bored and long runs are not an option at a gym that limits you to only an hour on the machine). But…with the ankle rehabbed and my running slower…but okay…I packed up my bags, packed up my car, and made the long drive down to Atlanta.
A full and hilly 26.2 miles.
Because…I was cleared to do it as long as I don’t blitz it. I had no intentions of blitzing this one in the first place, so I was okay with that. But, that’s not to say the nerves haven’t set in. Because, trust me…they have.
The drive down was pretty uneventful. Listened to some tunes…then a few Doc Savage radio shows…until I got downtown. Pulled into the Omni Hotel and had my car valet parked. The luggage was left with the doorman and I went to check in. I stayed at the Omni when I was in Atlanta for The Police concert so many years ago! So, I knew it was a very nice place to stay. And as I checked in, since I was here for the marathon, the hotel provided me with an awesome bag of goodies: a banana, a bottle of water, and a KIND Bar. This…is my happy face!
Went to the room and waited for the luggage to arrive. When it did, it was time to head to the expo. Now, I had every intention of walking away from this expo with nothing more than maybe a new BondiBand…and my race packet. But then…EXPO AWE OF PURCHASING DOOM hit and my wallet…took the brunt of it. Now…for the most part, nothing was really something I didn’t need. I bought a couple of Wonder Woman tech shirts. YAY! Been looking for those everywhere. I bought a new pair of Newton’s…which was my splurge buy, but my old pair is up in the miles and, damn, I love those shoes. And…I bought the adhesive spray for my KT Taping. Oh…and while I was there, as an extra precaution, I had the people at the KT Tape booth tape up my ankle. Figured it wouldn’t hurt.
After that…I had to get out of there before I talked myself into other items that caught my eye…because the shirts in the Official Merchandise store were tempting. But I really don’t need more shirts, LOL!
So…Cathy and I left the expo and took items back up to the room at the hotel. We had some time to kill, so we decided to take a stroll over to Centennial Park. So…we did that and actually found the finish shoots and the start of the finish line being put up. We wandered over so I could take pictures in front of the finish line. Then, we strolled up to the Hard Rock Cafe so I could pick up a pin and Cathy could get a shot glass. Been ages since we’ve been to the Atlanta Hard Rock. We went to check out where we were dining that night before taking things back to the hotel, relaxing for a moment, and then making the short stroll up the street to dinner.
Dinner was at Max’s Coal Oven Pizzaria. We saw them listed on Find Me Gluten Free with some good reviews…so we figured we’d give it a try. We were seated immediately and we made a decision on a gluten-free pizza to split. We chose the Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza…which was a white pizza that had fontina cheese, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fresh oregano. It looked amazing when it was delivered to my table…but it really…was kind of MEH. The mushrooms were awesome. The crust was…uninspired and rather boring. SO not the way I wanted my mandatory pre-race gluten-free pizza to go. So disappointed. After that, we walked over to the CNN Building to take a look around. We got some frozen yogurt for dessert and came back to the room to relax. I had my stretches and foam rolling to do and really just want some time to relax and make sure I was hydrated and ready for the morning.
My first alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. I got up and did a couple of things before climbing back into my comfy bed and getting about 45 more minutes of rest. When my second alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., I checked the weather, then got up and got my clothes I laid out the night before and went to get changed. At first, I was afraid that the t-shirt under my Marathon Maniac’s singlet (OH…forget to mention I totally qualified for Marathon Maniacs back in January with the Disney Marathon) would be too warm. The temperature that morning was 58° F with little breeze. Wearing it turned out to be the best decision I have made. More on that later. I ate my cereal and then did my stretches (my physical therapists would be so proud!) and resistance band work (again…they would be proud). I brushed my teeth…then put on my fuel belt and bib and headed out the door.
Then…I get to the elevators and realized that I left my cellphone in the room. So, I hurried back to the room to get it. Exit…take 2…I get in the elevator and head down to the lobby. I get to the door and realized that I left my pre-race banana in the room. So…now I’m stressing myself out and went back to the room and grabbed the banana…and my hoodie…just in case it was windy and chillier than the Weather Channel app on my phone told me. Exit…take 3.
And this time…we made it out the door and onto the sidewalk. The start of the race was in Centennial Olympic Park right across from my hotel. No stress. So, I was starting to feel a little calmer and better about everything. I was supposed to meet up with the other Marathon Maniacs for a picture near a statue, so that was where we headed first. It was my first official photo as a Maniac…and that was awesome! The photo was a quick thing and then I went to find somewhere to do some more stretching and eat my banana. Cathy gave me a good luck hug and said she was off to find a place past the starting line to see me off. I decided to get into my corral (Corral E). Time was ticking down. Fifteen minutes to go to start time. The nerves were starting to settle in…again.
The National Anthem was sang beautifully! I was listening to all the chatter in the corral about time expectations. I had none coming into this one. I just had a goal…to finish…and not get re-injured. Having just been cleared to run last week…well…this was a huge risk running this race. I had so many people tell me to defer. But…I figured if I was cleared to run…this was running. I would listen to my body.
I got to chatting with a guy next to me. He noticed me getting my Garmin ready and he said his all-out died on him so he showed me his standard watch (with the actual watch hands and everything) and said he was taking it old school. Awesome! We got a good laugh about it and I mentioned I had to replace my Garmin because mine did the same thing. I love my new Garmin, BTW! Little treat to myself!
The corrals began to get collapsed and the flag barriers removed. We all moved up and then the official countdown in a robotic voice began. And then…we were off. I walked for a moment, then we all started to job. And…we were off. I gave a wave to Cathy as I ran past her. She cheered and then…I was hitting the road.
And this road was H-I-L-L-Y!!!
Seriously…it became immediately apparent that I haven’t been able to train much this winter. First…I was barred from running for over a month. Then I was banned from running hills along with it…for longer than not running. That also meant no incline on the treadmill either. So…I was so not ready for the Hills From Hell™ in Atlanta. But…I signed on for this, right? Right.
Between Mile 1 and 2, I had the chance to run with a really nice guy, also a Marathon Maniac. We discussed our sprained ankles, as he had badly sprained his ankle too and this was his first run back as well. His name was Anthony and he was really nice. I lost him at a water stop though. From there on out…it was all about what my body was telling me. With the number of hills and the various climbs and steepness of each…I said that if my ankle twinged, I would back it off. So…that was the plan. I wasn’t running for time…just the fact that I could run again!
I absolutely took on this challenging marathon with my whole heart. I was having a really good run for the most part. They volunteers at the water/Powerade and food stops were awesome. I actually expected there to be more crowd support through the entire race…but…nope. It was pretty sparse. The Decatur area had some groups out and the police officers helping with traffic control were awesome. I got a lot of shout-outs for being a Maniac…which was awesome. It definitely helped me get through some of the more challenging portions of this race.
Around Mile 16 it began to spit rain. I knew we had a big chance of rain…but it had held off. So…I was sort of expecting it (hence the reason I was wearing a hat). But…it only spit rain for about 30 minutes and then…it just stopped. Sadly though, when the rain came in…so did the wind. And some of these gusts of wind reached 20 mph. And we were running right into it. It kept catching the brim of my hat and trying to pull it off my head. It almost reminded me of the Marshall Marathon where the wind battered runners the entire way. Of course, with the wind…it got cold. Fast. And this is why I mentioned above why I was glad I decided to keep the t-shirt on. The beginning of the race was humid and warm and I sort of was kicking myself for putting the t-shirt on beneath the singlet…but after that wind hit…I was happy to have it.
The end of this race was a gradual uphill, which made it very difficult at times. My calf muscles were screaming and barking and mooing at me all at once. Like I said…you could tell that I hadn’t been running the hills recently. Or…running at all. I felt way under-prepared…and a bit out of shape. But…you know…I walked part of the inclines…I kept my pace easy so as not to do any damage. And I ended up having a better race than I anticipated I would. Finishing a marathon in sub-4 after not being able to run for over a month, and having to tackle some intense hills…yeah…I’m happy with this!
I spotted Cathy at the finish line and she rushed over to congratulate me. Then she said to go get my medal and stuff and to meet her in the reunion area. I walked through to get the beautiful medal from this race. Then…water. Ah, sweet water. And then it was the Mylar blanket followed by chocolate milk. I made my way through the chute until I made the turn to head toward Centennial Park and the Publix Food Tent. Cathy was waiting on a grassy knoll just inside the gate. I walked over the area where the bomb went off during the 1996 Olympic Games and made my way to where she was. She gave me a huge hug and congratulated me once again. We made our way over to the Publix Food Tent and I had my ticket torn off my bib to get my bag of goodies for the finish. They even gave Cathy one. That was very nice of them…as Cathy works just as hard as I do at these races, trust me. I went to a clearing in the grass and put my feet up, attempting to call my parents. They were still in church though, so they didn’t answer their phones. After that, I got myself back on my feet and went to do my calf stretches against what we later realized was the base of the Olympic Torch holder. For real.
It was really cold out with the wind, so we made the short hike back to the hotel room so that I could take my shower, have the fruit cup Cathy picked up for me and then get ready to head out to the CNN Center for the CNN Studio Tour she picked up tickets for while I was on the run. That, by the way, was so much fun. I have a degree in journalism, so I was eating up every moment of the tour. We did a little bit of shopping and TONS of walking around Atlanta. It was a good afternoon. And I never really stopped moving, which is always a good thing.
And now, I’ve retired back to the hotel room where I am about to do my stretches and resistance band work. Law & Order SVU is on…and I’m feeling content. I was so nervous about this race going into it…and I’m content with what happened and how I did. Sure…slightly disappointed…but you know…this one had to be about running smart. It just had to be that way.
So…my official results of the Publix Georgia Marathon are that I finished in a time of 3:51:32 (for 26.47 miles). I wasn’t expecting to go sub-4 on this one, so this was a very nice surprise. I was 296/1628 finishers overall. I was the 64/647 female to cross the finish line. And I was 10/98 in my division. Was this the marathon I wanted? Absolutely not. But…it was the best marathon I could have given the circumstances I was under. I ran smart…I listened to my body…and I crossed that finish line.
I am Ryan Hall.
No…not because I have his speedy gazelle-like stride…
(Because…let’s face it…if I was Ryan Hall…I’d have endorsements and big money wins at races…and a much better race PR in ALL THE RACES…of which…I have none of those things…)
…or that my coach is God…
I am Ryan Hall because I seem to be running less…running easier…and getting hurt doing it. Continuously hurt.
I blame winter. Really. Every injury that I’ve incurred has happened in December through February…and it’s been because I chose to run outside…on snow…on ice…and just managed to hit something wrong. That’s how I strained my Achilles back in December. That’s how I twisted my ankle last week too.
And that’s why I’m sitting out a race I chose to run today in honor of my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. I wasn’t even bothering to train for it. I have been running on a treadmill for short distances, which is really no way to train, but the weather this year has been SO awful for running outside. But…I also have been dealing with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so…sometimes I just need to be outside. It’s been a struggle this year. I feel like my running is really starting to falter. Not only do I keep going out and getting hurt, but I don’t feel light and fast like I used to. I just feel…like I’m really starting to slow down.
And it sucks. Not being able to run this morning…SUCKS! Big time. I’ve cried all week over the possibility that I might not be running. I made the trip anyway…with ice packs and KT Tape. I went to get my packet. I limped my way through it all. But last night…last night I knew…I knew that no matter what…that ankle was not going to be up to par. If I ran…I’d do further damage. It would put me out longer…perhaps forever.
And while it wasn’t an easy decision…while the tears are still flowing as I type this blog…I know it was the right decision. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel like a disappointment and a failure. I do. Honestly. I do. And my confidence in my abilities and my running is more than crumbling at the moment. I’m down. I’m depressed. And I feel like I can’t…I won’t…come back from this.
And then…I find a quote from one of my running idols:
So, maybe this is just a bump in the road. It feels more like a sinkhole, to be honest. But…you know…I can sit here and feel miserable about it or I can do what I can do…it might not be running…but something…and focus on moving on…to the next thing. Sure, I can be disappointed…and I am. Sure, I can feel like a failure…and I do. But…I can’t let this defeat me. I can’t let this define me. I know I can run. I may not be the fastest or the strongest. I might eat too much gluten-free pizza and ice cream. But I’m a runner, dammit. And for a 5’3″ girl with short legs…I’m pretty damn fast when I’m on top of my game.
Life isn’t always fair. In fact…it more often isn’t. And life comes at you fast. Life is unpredictable. Life…can honestly suck at times. And it’s in these moments of darkness that you realize…there is a silver lining. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may not seem like it…you may not see it…but it’s there.
My good friend, Jesse Hall, said this to me just now:
There is always another race, another time, another horizon. What there is not is another you, therefore there are people who look up to you and see a brave woman. You have taught us today that you do your best, and sometimes do your best is not doing anything. Sometimes it requires time to heal.
His words mean so much to me. I literally started crying all over again…but for different reasons. He’s right. I can sit here and feel miserable about myself and the situation…or I can continue to inspire those who tell me in small ways that I inspire them. I’d rather be the brave, strong woman who returned to race another day.
It is just all a matter of perspective.
It’s still not easy. And I’m still crying over it. But…it won’t define me.
However…I will be upset about it. I will shed tears over it. I will not let myself think I am weak for crying and feeling disappointed. It’s natural and normal. But I will come back. In time.
Dear driver in the white SUV pulling into the Dairy Queen on Bardstown Road yesterday morning:
Thank you for providing my little band of jolly runners with something to milk for the slow, steady, and careful 8 miles we pounded out on the roads of Louisville. The sidewalks were sheer ice. The roads were mostly clear, save for some slick spots and black ice. We found those though…either before we tread over them…or during. Whichever came first.
The fact of the matter was…when you attempted to take our jolly band of runners out with your big-ass SUV, then proceeded toward the Diary Queen drive-thru, only to pause to roll down the window opposite your side of the car to scream out the window for the five of us to “get out of the damn road” and then proceeded to inform us that we are all dumbasses…well…our reply of “THANK YOU” was not misplaced.
Because for the rest of the run…if we hit ice or stumbled upon it accidentally, the word “dumbass” was always brought up, with laughter, twinkles in our eyes, and maybe a friendly elbow to the person running beside us.
I personally thank you for this comment…because I have been miserable these days. Seasonal Affective Disorder has not let up…not yet. I am trying as hard as I can to find more reasons to smile. And, to be honest, I almost didn’t go out for this run. Too many factors that could end badly. I learned in December last year…ice and I don’t get along. But, my roomie insisted I go, because I’d enjoy running with people…even out in the cold and on treacherous paths, than I would running on my own in a gym.
She was right.
This was the second week in a row that I was out and running with a group. And I’ve found my smile again with each one. My speed is still lacking…but at least I’m getting out. Even if, at times, I feel like I don’t want to. This has been good for me. For at least an hour, I leave my troubles, my depression, my doubts behind. For a moment…I am a runner…with my group of friends who know how to lift me up and chase away the shadows.
Dealing with SAD has sucked. I hate feeling lost and defeated and so unlike myself. I hate feeling like I’ve lost fitness and speed. And…honestly…I have. My weight is WAY up from what it was for Chicago. My legs aren’t firing as fast as they used to. And, honestly, this breaks me apart. I struggle every morning with it. But I keep on training. Strength training, spinning, and, yes…running…mostly inside…no speed work.
My achilles is better. It is! Happiness. But I ran in old shoes yesterday on the ice…and now my ankle is twinging at me. I am so done with winter. The negative digits, single digits, and below freezing temperatures have really hindered me this year. Coming back from injury is hard enough…coming back to weather that is not meant or safe for running is even worse. This has been my worst winter yet. And all these components are really weighing me down (literally according to my bathroom scale).
Sometimes…I just don’t feel like myself…and I don’t like the way I feel. So many friends have texted, called, invited me out, messaged me, had dinner with me, or just checked in on me. And that makes me feel really warm and fuzzy. Some I missed calls, but returned. Some have given me hugs. Some have just let me talk it out. It’s so hard for me to open up about this because it makes me feel weak. It makes me feel lost. It makes me feel…so unlike me that it scares me.
The days are finally getting longer. The air…warming up…a little. So…hopefully…just hopefully…I’ll have more time and more opportunities to set out on these roads with my friends at my side…with more than one reason to smile.
And, if we’re lucky…a fast food, super-sizing, jackass to give us a little comedy relief…but calling us all dumbasses…when we were really doing the safer thing for everyone.
And…if I’m lucky…maybe I’ll just learn to love myself and what I can do again. But I think that’s going to take some time.
Oh my goodness!!
What a crazy year it has been. I started off this year with a simple goal: run 1300 miles in 2013. Well, that goal was easily reached because I met yet another goal this year as well…
I ran my first marathon.
And then followed it up with another marathon.
My other goal was to make it through the year uninjured. I almost made it. SO close. The past two weeks I have been going without running due to Achilles tendonitis brought on by refusing to hop on a treadmill and going for a run while there was still ice and snow on the ground. The uneven footing was enough to alter my gait enough to cause this bit of discomfort. I am on the mend though. Not being able to get out and run has been killing me…but I have supplemented spinning classes (I go at least 2 times a week), swimming (once a week) and some weight training in, all of which I intend to keep doing well into next year. Because I love how strong these other activities are making me.
Do I have a goal for this coming year? I haven’t really given it much thought. Miles I always seem to surpass…races I run plenty…I think my main goal is to eat better, train better, remember to cross-train more, take some time to walk and see the sites that I might miss otherwise, work on speed, and just have a great year on the road.
SO much love and thanks to all my friends this year who have seen me through training, traveled to my races, cheered for me, cried with me, and pushed me beyond what I ever thought possible. I have made so many new friends this past year and I know that I’m going to forge new friendships in this coming year.
So…here is to a happy, healthy, and healing New Year.
Thank you, my dearest readers, for sticking with me and offering advice, words of love and encouragement, and for pushing me to aim higher.
2014…I’m on the mend…and I’m ready to hit the road! Let’s do this!
That’s all I’ve been feeling toward myself these days. While so many of my running friends are posting better times and new PRs…I feel like I’m in a slump. I feel like…things are just…getting worse for me. And all of this leads to a lot of self doubt and a lot of low self-esteem. Yes…I am so very proud of my friends for their accomplishments. But it’s only natural for me to look at what they are managing and wonder…why am I slowing down? Why is the weight piling on? Why…just why?
I try to keep my thoughts positive, but when you feel like your fitness is suffering…well…it’s hard to keep that good attitude.
Let’s start with the first thing. I’ve put on about 10 pounds since I ran the Chicago Marathon. I haven’t changed my eating routines. I’m not loading up on junk food. I’m still eating clean. I still treat myself. But…the weight just won’t come off. In fact, I just seem to add to it. And that just sucks…mightily. When you no longer feel as light as a feather…you don’t feel like you’re running as fast or capable of running as fast as you did when you were at your prime fitness. This is me. And it is really messing with my mind. I hear about all my friends losing weight, dieting, all this stuff. I don’t diet…I just eat clean and I workout. And somehow this has brought on weight. I don’t eat a lot of crap. Yes…I treat myself to ice cream on the weekend…but I’ve always done that. Even back during my marathon training. UGH! The biggest insult happened this past weekend when I went to the pool to swim some laps…and my bathing suit was tight. Uncomfortably…not fitting me right…tight.
Now, allow me to follow this paragraph up with the fact that I am not working out to lose weight. I don’t run to lose weight. Nor do I run so I can eat a lot of crap and not feel guilty about it. I run and I go to the gym because I love how it makes me feel. I don’t need to lose weight. BUT…I don’t want to gain it either. And despite my workouts and my runs…that scale keeps creeping up…and with it…my self-doubt.
It sucks having low self-esteem!
Achilles tendonitis. Brought on from…ironically…avoiding the treadmill and going out to run on those icy and snowy days. Landing on uneven icy and snow altered my gait…and with it…put some strain and stress on my Achilles. What has this brought on? Slower runs. No long runs. And a lot of very mixed emotions from me. I hate cutting my mileage. If there is one run I look forward to every week it’s my long run. I love going long. I love the distance. I don’t care how fast I run or how slow…I just want to get that distance. I love the time with others…or the time alone. I love talking or sometimes just letting my thoughts take over. This past weekend I was supposed to run 2 long runs…but…I ran a total of 4 miles. FOUR MILES!! And not even at speed. I can’t. Not with this ankle/Achilles issue. It is so aggravating. I can still run…but the intensity isn’t there. The distance is definitely not happening. And it just tears me up inside. I know it’s for the best…not to put added strain/stress on the problem area…but…I get so cranky when my runs get messed with. And this has definitely left me feeling insignificant. Especially when the miles are turned down and so is the speed. I feel like I should be turning up the intensity if the mileage is not there…but I can’t even do that. And it’s beyond bumming me out. It’s making me second guess everything. And then I read about everyone else who is running long, setting new PRs, and just getting so much stronger and faster…and here I am…slowing down…feeling like I’m reverting back…feeling…SO DAMN SLOW!! IT SUCKS!!
I know it’s for the best, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.
What I have been doing is taking my runs inside…to the dreadmill…and running at a very deliberate, easy pace. The soft belt is a lot kinder to my joints than the hard pavement right now. Oh…and I’ve now officially taken two spinning classes (and totally intend to keep going to them!!) and have added more weights for some strength training. I’ve only learned the machines…so I haven’t officially added that back in. I’m going to get back into the habit of my circuit training. I fell off it when my roommate went into the hospital. Then it was too close to my marathon to really want to hop back in. After that…probably sheer lack of motivation…and the fact that the roomie can’t turn it up and dial it in like I can while on her current meds. BUT…that changes when I get back from my Christmas vacation. Dialing back into those weights, the core, the strength training. Hopefully the ankle/Achilles will be further on the mend. I also went swimming on Sunday. Yep. Swimming for a whole 45 minutes. I love to swim, and definitely should incorporate it more. Or else I’ll never get any better. Not that I’m a horrible swimmer, I’m just not very fast. I don’t have that strength behind it yet. But that comes with time and training. Time to just hop in and DO IT!
I have a difficult time wrapping my head around slower running times. I’m built for distance…that much I know. But I also like to prove that I am swift. I’m speedy. Sometimes I feel that way. But ever since the cold weather hit, my times have been so much slower than what I could master in the heat of summer. I run better in heat than cold. Cold burns my lungs, makes it hard to breathe, therefore…I never quite find my rhythm. Some people run better and faster in colder temperatures. I am not one of those people. Slowing down scares me. I am not ready to slow down. I want to find that strength to push a little harder, fight to get a little faster, and outrun all my doubts and limits. And I have yet to do just that. I feel like I’m failing…
Cold weather creeps in and so does my self-doubt. I am my own worst critic and my harshest competition. I don’t feel like I’m running up to par and that gets stuck in my head. I get aggravated when I fail to nail a time on a distance that felt so easy during the warmer days. I know it’s natural. I know it’s normal. But I’m competitive…and when I feel like I’m sliding backwards instead of moving ahead…I get into this tug-of-war with myself and my emotions…my expectations…
And yeah…that sucks too.
My competition is not my friends I run with…nor is it those who are out there making progress. My competition is myself. I look in the mirror…and those extra pounds, those slower times, the lack of long runs, the self-doubt…that is my competition. And until I get get over this hump…it’s the fight of my life right now. Because until I believe that I can run faster in the cold, that my ankle won’t hurt, that my body isn’t failing me or trying to slow me down…then I’m not making progress. And I won’t. Words have power…even the unspoken ones inside my head.
Time to find my strong…again.
It’s a battle I’m willing to fight. I just have to be smart about it. My competition…is all in my head…and it’s time to show it who is boss.