Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Deciding to swim and fly...DCIS Day five years later 11.8.17

"Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky
Long live that day that I decided to fly from the inside"


~Fly from the Inside, Shinedown

Who knew that the time I would learn how to just keep swimming would also be the time I decided to fly from the inside without even knowing it...

A milestone. Five years ago today we received the news that would change our lives forever…shortly afterwards would I not only learn how to just keep swimming, but I would learn how to fly from the inside, too. While I have l always liked the song by Shinedown, it wasn't until I really "listened" to the lyrics when I was running one day not too long ago that the lyrics really hit home.

According to the singer, "fly from the inside" is a metaphor about believing in yourself and going after anything that seems unattainable. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt hopeless and lost. After all the other stuff that happened earlier that year on top of if, I wanted to give up…but then I learned how to just keep swimming….. and then I found something that helped me learn how to fly from the inside about a year later…running. Who knew? After all, I was a non-athlete growing up and at 40something, running from my house to the stop sign less than a quarter of a mile away was darn near impossible. At first I was only going to only run a 5k to run in memory of my dear friend, Kris, who left this world too soon, and that was it. But it became something more and every day when I've laced up since, I remember why. For the record, it was all Paul's idea that I even try running. Sure you may have created a monster, dear, but you did tell me I needed to find a hobby. Thank you though, for believing in me for all the times I've had no faith in myself (and we know there have been many). I could never have gotten here today without you.

Don't worry, I won't make this post all about running because if you follow my Facebook posts or my blog, you already know I talk about it….A LOT… Today's post is about remembering where I was five years ago, how far I have come, and those who have helped me get here. It's remembering how I've learned to just keep swimming…and to fly from the inside….I don't know where I'd be without God and the love and support from all of you, my floaties, so from the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of you.

And for the ones who are no longer here with us, the angel I wear is for you.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Make a Difference 5K Race Report 10.22.17

This was the third year running the Make a Difference 5K benefiting a local food pantry. It's held at the middle school both of my boys went to, it's a flat course meandering through some residential neighborhoods and a local park named Veterans Park  so it's a nice combination of road and trails PLUS it's five minutes from home so why not. It is also a grand prix race for my running club so there are usually some members there which also means there is stiff competition so I don't expect to ever place. I usually have friends running the race with me but none of them were joining me this year and with Paul being out of town that weekend and Rick not allowed to race because it's still XC season, I was going completely solo....for only the second time in my racing "career." It was weird for me.

The race is small and much to my surprise, I have walked away both times with an AG placing. Gotta love small races!!  In 2015, with a time of 26:07, I was 1st in my AG and in 2016, I was 1st in my AG and 3rd female OA with a time of 24:41. This year, the race was going to be even SMALLER so I thought possibly another placing would be doable as long as there weren't too many ladies from the club there. But as the race got closer, the less enthusiastic I was becoming. I picked up the race packed Friday and with the numbers 7617, I came up with 777 so maybe with the 7s, I'd have some luck. 

Doomed
As I've mentioned, I have been falling out of love 5ks and I really wasn't looking forward to this race. Actually, I wasn't even planning on running it this year until my friend said she wanted to do it again so I signed up, only to have her back out after I had already registered. To give me some motivation, I decided a day or two before the race I would run in honor of a friend's mom who lost her battle with cancer earlier that week and I'll be honest, that was the only reason I went through with the race. I woke up at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning and I never went back to sleep. My mind was going a million miles a minute about lot of things but the thought about how much I hate 5Ks, how hard they are, how I don't like the way I feel like I’m dying when I'm running them, etc. kept creeping in to my thoughts to the point I was obsessing about it. Not the best way to go into a race and I'd have to say I may have had several races where I wasn't "feeling it", this was the worst by far so I felt this race was really was doomed from the start. 

I finally got up around 6 a.m. even though the race didn’t start until 9 and had I not told my friend I would run in his mom's memory, I would have bailed. Since his mom's favorite color was purple, I picked out a purple shirt to wear, put on my "unstoppable hope" running socks, and new running shoes, and headed out the door about 8:20 a.m. You know when I don't have my outfit all picket out the night before, I'm not "feeling" it and I certainly was not. 

After I parked and got in a short 0.5 warm up, I walked over to the staging area where I saw my 81 year old relay teammate, Jean. We chatted for a bit and she told me if I plan on doing the relay next year, she wants in. Much to my surprise, all of the usual suspects (speedy ladies from the club) were no where to be found. Laurie, the XC mom I've mentioned, was there so she joined us in conversation. Soon it was time to head to the start so knowing Laurie is faster than I am, I decided I would just try to keep up with her and whatever the clock said the clock said. At the very least, I would like to course PR so the time to beat was last year's of 24:41.

The race
There really isn't a whole lot to say about the 3.1 miles in general other than I really hate 5Ks and that's all I could think about. I even stopped to walk for a couple seconds during this race and I have NEVER stopped during a 5K before. I think this mindset, as well as being tired, contributed to my bad attitude and lack-luster performance. 

I did a pretty good job keeping up with Laurie until around mile 2 where I started to bonk, at least that's how I was feeling. When I stopped (mentioned above), that gave her even more of a lead and I finally I told myself I just needed to get to the finish and that this was my race, my pace, not hers and just run. I also realized with the race being much smaller than last year, no one who looked in my AG was passing me (actually it was so small of a race I was either passing people or running with no one around) so even if I ran a crappy race, I'd probably still have a good chance of getting a placing. I just needed to get to the end. I did pass one of the boys from the XC team in the park somewhere between mile 2 and 3 so that kind of made me chuckle. I can't be doing THAT bad, right?

Anyway, the race ended back at the school and I felt like I had slowed down considerably the last mile and I really didn't have much left so I just kept my pace and crossed the finish.

I walked over to the computers where the live results were and lo and behold, I did place 1st in my AG with a time of 25:21. I didn't realize it was a gun start so per my Garmin my time was 25:15 but even with that, I didn't even course PR and that kind of bummed me out. Last year I was 3rd OA female and this year I was 4th. Laurie was 1st in her AG but was 3rd OA with a time of 24:56.

After the awards, I jumped into the running club's group photo (which I always miss…and of course when I’m finally in the picture, you can't see me because of the shadow LOL) and headed for home. While I was not happy with the race whatsoever, knowing I ran the race in memory of my friend's mom made my less-than-stellar performance not so bad and the AG placing "for her" was more important than what the time clock said.

Final thoughts
What's funny is had I finished this RR earlier this week, I would have said I don't think I'll be running many 5Ks from here on out or they would be few and far between because I was just miserable during the race but I've had a lot of time to think about this over the week and I've changed my mind. I do love the race vibe and even though my performance was a disappointment personally, I really felt energized this week during my runs and I haven't felt that way in a long time. Perhaps part of the slump I've been in these last few months is because I HAVEN'T been racing this summer like that last two. I'm not sure if that makes sense but racing every other weekend, sometimes every weekend last summer kept me energized. It's like the "high" from racing never went away and therefore my runs during the week were more enjoyable. This summer was a totally different story so combing the "depression" I was in because I couldn’t race because of my hammy and not having the "high" from racing I really think is what is the main contributor the funk I have been. Perhaps this race was the kick in the butt I've been looking for.

With that said, I have done a lot of "sole" (ha ha get it) searching this week and have decided I am going back to the MOA of how I started 2016, the first year I started setting goals for myself (and also the year my goal to run 100+ MPM for the year began..never imagined I'd still be doing that 46 months later). Since I was a total racing junkie in 2015, I decided in 2016 I would have one goal race, which would be The Race for the Place, and all other 5Ks would be training runs where I would try various racing strategies and use them as speed workouts since I didn't do them in my "training". This served me very well and it made 5Ks fun because it wasn't always about a PR (except for repeat races I wanted to course PR). I was going into that same mindset this year but things fell apart first with my mysterious hammy issue in May followed by not being able to lifetime PR at Race for the Place and throw not being able to race as much as I wanted to because of my hammy, mentally I have been in somewhat of a downward spiral….that is, until Sunday's race. 

Funny how yet again, a race that initially had no "meaning" when I signed up and was just doing it to do it turned out to be race with a purpose (in memory of my friend's mom) but more importantly, turned out to be a very valuable learning experience and while 5Ks will always be my least favorite distance, I honestly think this race gave me that "something" I've been looking for but couldn't find to get me inspired about running again. Perhaps my bib numbers forming "777" was a luck afterall.

One last thing, I was rather surprised that the mile I felt was my worst (I honestly thought I had slowed WAAAY down) ended up being my fastest. I'm still shaking my head with that one. 

Stats
25:21 gun start
25:15 per my Garmin
8:10 pace
1/9 AG
4/42 Female
21/79 OA

Splits 
8:17 
8:24 
8:07

My purple shirt, award, and bib; me and the infamous Jean Toth, and group photo
with the running club. I'm the one in the shadow. =)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

You really CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

My career in the graphic/web designed field started over 25 years ago as a work-study job in college doing desktop publishing while I was earning my degree in a completely unrelated field. I learned the tools of the trade then and over the years, taught myself graphic design and eventually how to build websites. What I though was going to be my dream job four and a half years ago has turned out to be a dead end position with my current skill set but I’m completely behind the times with what’s “hot” so I have felt “stuck” in my current role.

Making a career change has been something I have considered many times over the years but I’ve never known what I’d like to do. With having a family, working full time, and volunteering for a non-profit youth organization, I have always felt overwhelmed and going back to school just hasn’t seemed doable because I just don’t have the extra time to commit to having to go the local community college. Plus, college is expensive these days and I really just haven’t had the extra money. Sure, there are online classes but those "learn on your own" course are intimidating because who do I go to if I have questions? Lastly, I haven’t taken a class in over 12 years so I’ve been worried my brain is too “old” to learn something new. So how can I find a more rewarding job or spice up my current one without having the time and money to improve myself? One word: Udacity.

While sitting on the beach on vacation this summer, my husband, who is in the IT field, received an email that Udacity was offering a discount on their Digital Marketing Nanodegree program. Digital marketing? Hmmm, I like to write, I am active on Facebook and have my own blog so after looking at the course outline it looked very interesting. Maybe becoming a digital marketer was the change I was looking for! But how would I get help or to whom would I ask questions if I got stuck? Along with the course, you get your own mentor, there is a discussion forum, and you can talk directly to your instructors and fellow students on dedicated Slack channels. The best part is you can earn your degree from the comfort of your own home and can do the course work when it's convenient for you. While Udacity suggests you complete the course in three months, you can actually take up to six months if needed. All this for a fraction of what college course would cost. After taking all this into consideration, I decided that day on the beach to take the plunge and sign up for the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program.

So now I’m on the road to earning my nanodegree in digital marketing and I’m not even halfway through the program and I've learned so much already. I guess you can say I'm proof that you really can teach an old dog new tricks. If you're an "old dog" wanting to learn a new trick too, check out Udacity's Digital Marketing Nanodegree program. You'll be glad you did.

#IminDMND

Friday Night Lights 5K 7.14.17 Race Report: Epic Fail or Valuable Training Run

In the 3 1/2 years, I have been running, this always been my worst race which is probably why my journal entries for both times I've run this race have never made it to a “published” race report. I decide this year that no matter how it turned out, I would complete a race report. We can’t always have stellar races with unexpected victories, right? So here it goes….

The Friday Night Lights 5K is a race held at 9 p.m. and benefits my son's XC team. It begins and ends on the high school track under the lights. The course is on the local bike path and has a few rolling hills and at the end of the race between miles 2.3 and 2.7 shortly before you get back to the high school, there are two back to back; one you can tell is a hill and when you get to the top you think the worst is over followed by a sneaky, gradual incline that isn't very kind to tired legs. Not only have I run this race twice before, but I've run the course many times in my training runs so I definitely know what to expect.

It's a pretty popular race and a lot of kids from local XC teams participate as well as runner graduates home from college on summer break. It also attracts a lot of local running powerhouses. Numbers were down this year though with "only" 554 runners.

To race or not to race, that is the question

This race is always one of my worst races because I am just not a night person. Get me up at 5 a.m. to go for a run and I'm all over it but ask me to run past 5 p.m.? Forget it! I’m usually getting ready for bed at 9 p.m. so I never anticipate doing all that well and if I can make the top 10 in my AG, I am happy. In 2015, my time was 27:40 and I was 8/32 in my AG. In 2016, my time was 26:34 and I was 7/28 in my AG so at least I've been able to hit my AG goals even though both times were my worse 5K times for each of those years.

It is usually very hot and muggy for this race which adds to the level of difficulty for me. Last year it was 90 degrees and the humidity was so intense it was like running through soup. I had debated whether to do this race this year because my company was a sponsor of a local airshow and Friday night was a private party held at the airport. However, we had to take our son to the race and I knew I wouldn't be able to just be a cheerleader, especially with all the racing I have missed this summer. Plus, they changed the course this year due to construction at the high school so they cut out the two hills at the end making it a slightly easier course. The weather was actually forecasted to be more pleasant too, 70% humidity and 75 degrees. Right as I was getting ready to sign up Friday morning, one of the board members from the running club posted on Facebook she decided not to run the race and was giving her bib away. Perfect timing.

Last year's course

This year's course
May not be much of a change but a welcome one for those of us who have run this race before and those of us with tired legs and aren't used to running at night.

Backing up just a bit, as you know I have been dealing with a couple unexplained ailments. On Thursday when I went for my run, while the ball of my foot pain was pretty much gone, towards the end of my run, I felt my left hamstring tighten up, something I have never felt before. It was bad enough I had to quit running and walk the last half mile home. Great, something new to worry about.

Race day

Since I wasn’t sure when I woke up Friday morning if I was going to do this race, I got up before dawn for a short 3 mile run with some walking mixed in so I was sure to get miles for the day and also wanted to see how that hamstring was doing. It wasn't too bad but towards the end again, I felt the strange tightening so I decided I was going to just run the race and not try to race it. Walking would be an acceptable option as well.

Friday after work, I went to pick up the bib and a black cat ran across the street in front of me. I kind of chuckled to myself because as I was trying to get my get up ready for Sunday's race, my black cat sat on it and I ended up smashing that race. I knew with this one I would need all the help I could get! I noticed on the way home my bib number was 1333. Ahhhh, the number 13? Another sign for good luck perhaps? Ha, I wish.
Every year the t-shirt has some kind of movie design.
Even though I don't wear the unisex shirts, I still thought it was cool.
I had everything ready to go before we headed to the party because I knew we would only have a small window of time to get changed and head to the race. I didn't get a picture of my get up but I wore a fluorescent green USMC tank top, a hot pink running skort, a flashy silver headband, and a new pair of running shoes that only had a handful of miles in them. I figured they were the exact same shoe, right down to the color, that I have been running in for over a year and a half and the other three pairs never bothered me before. Besides, this was a "short" 5K so I didn't think new shoes wouldn't be a problem.

We headed off to the party and when we got there, I was really bummed we were going to have to leave at 8 to head to the race. Not only were we going to miss out indulging in all the awesome food they had, there was also a nighttime air show we were going to miss. Since I wasn't super excited about this race and I knew my time wasn't going to be all that, I figured I might as well enjoy the party and enjoyed more food than I should have. I also stood the entire time because I was worried sitting would make my hamstring cranky. Coincidentally, my boss and his wife were going to run the race too. They both run at night and live in a pretty hilly area so this would be an easy race for them. They were at the party too and didn't seem too concerned about enjoying what the party had to offer before the race.

Ready.set.go
The clock struck 8 and it was time to leave. Paul was going to take aerial video of the race so we needed to make sure he had enough time to get set up so we headed for home, got changed, and headed up to the high school. I decided I wasn't going to do a warm up but Rick wanted to so we wished each other luck and all parted ways. While I was waiting around, I ran into my boss's wife. We chatted for a bit and then I decided I might want to do a real short warm up so we wished each other luck and I went on my way. I happened to see Paul and wondered why he was carrying his UAV and not flying so close to the start of the race. Apparently he had forgotten his memory card for the UAV in his laptop from an aerial photography job he did earlier in the day. Even though we are only 2 miles from the school, there wasn't enough time for him to drive home and get the card before the race started. Bummer. This would have been a really cool race to video from up above. He was not happy about this either.
Egads, I even look like death before the race. LOL 
They announced the race was about to start so I headed over to the track, saw my boss and his wife again, and decided to move up closer to the front. It was a pretty packed race and there were also a lot of young kids so I tried to get as close to the front as I could, of course giving space to the serious runners. One of the women from the running club came up next to me so we chatted for a bit. She knew I was not looking forward to this race and that I was at a shin dig beforehand so we joked a bit about whether I was going to be able to keep my dinner down or if she'd find me on the course sleeping. I told her it wasn't going to be pretty but in my head I thought I have gone into races not expecting to do well and I always surprise myself so maybe I would luck out this time. Goodness knows just how wrong I would be.

The gun went off and as we made the lap around the track, I actually wasn't feeling too bad. Maybe this race wouldn't be a bust after all, reinforcing the thoughts that I would probably do better than expected. Unfortunately, as soon as we got to school's parking lot and heading towards the bike path, my shins started to ache and for the first 2 miles, they felt like they were on fire. I tried using positive self-talk since it worked so well on Sunday but it wasn't helping. Not this time. What made matters worse was seeing the people I usually pass in races pass ME up never to be seen again. Ugh. Talk about demoralizing. This.Sucked. And I had 3 miles of this crap? I had already fallen out of love with the 5K distance but now I was REALLY hating it. I tried to ignore the shin pain and tried to keep telling myself positive things but all my mind would do was go back to how miserable I was feeling. There were several times I thought about just walking because this race was doomed before it even began but I decided to just keep going until I couldn't go anymore.

Push it
Mile 1 came and went and so did mile 2. The hills didn't seem too bad but it's probably because I was feeling pretty miserable as it was so how could it get worse, right? LOL. All my usually racing strategies went out the window and I just kept reminding myself the misery would be over soon. At about mile 2.5 is where the course changed from last year, all we had was one more hill to run and the rest of the race would be nice and flat leading to the final lap around the track to the finish line. I don't know what it was about that hill or maybe it was the song that came on my playlist "Push It" by Static X but all of the sudden I got this surge of energy and I ran up that hill like it was nothing and started running past people I had been behind the whole time. Maybe I had virtual cheerleaders somewhere cheering extra hard! Shortly before I got to the football stadium, I saw Paul and I don’t recall what he said to me because I was in a zone. This is also where I could start feeling my hamstring tighten up a bit but I just kept going because there was no stopping me now.

Usually by the time I hit the track in past races, I am dead and have zero energy left. Not this time. I almost felt like I was floating as I made my way around the track and was passing people left and right. I didn't even notice the finish line clock and surprised the heck out of myself that I was able to pick it up like that. I crossed the finish line and looked at my Garmin. The "high" I felt because of my strong finish quickly dissipated when I saw my time….28:19….my personal worse 5K time ever. I knew I was going to do poorly but that poorly? Buzz kill.

I found Rick after the race and we headed over to the computers with the live results. Sure enough, worst 5K time ever coming in at 28:19… Over 4 minutes slower from my current 5K PR set the hilly race on Mother's Day. I did, however, make the top 10 in my AG by placing 7th so it wasn't a total epic fail. Rick did really well with a time of 21:00 and even though he was 25/55 in his AG, he was 85 OA and he also met his time goal so he was happy. I chatted with another lady from the running club and once we found Paul, we headed home. I was still so full from the party I didn't even bother with the post-race snacks.

Post race thoughts
Even though I went into the race not expecting to do well which is a pretty common mindset I have with every race, this is the first race ever where I actually did poorly than expected. I literally have never has such a horrible race on so many levels in the short 3 1/2 years I have been running. As you can imagine, at first it was a pretty hard pill to swallow and I was downright embarrassed and mad at myself. But then I started thinking about the comments people made on my Facebook post and conversations I had with some of you here and my thinking has gone from "this race was an epic fail" to "this race was a very valuable training run" and I started to think about all the things that may have contributed to my performance:
  • First and foremost, running at night. I am just not built for running so late and I have no desire to start so that will always be a factor.
  • Even though Friday morning was a run with some walking mixed in, it was still 3 miles and I usually take the day off from running completely before a race. Not only did I run all week, I also ran on race morning.
  • I raced a pretty hard 5 mile race five days prior. I looked back in my journal from the past two years and same thing...Johnnycake Jog 5 miles on Sunday, Friday Night Lights on Friday. 
  • I wore running shoes that weren't broken in yet.
  • I also stood the entire time at the party so could both the new shoes and standing for two hours prior contribute to the shin pain?
  • I never eat or drink before a run or a race (except for a cup of coffee on race morning). I pretty much had a full stomach and actually felt bloated from the carbonation and water.
I have thought about the good things about this race as well. I did still manage to place in the top 10 so it wasn't a total loss. Also, not only have I done this race before but I have done others that follow almost the exact same course and the surge of energy I had at the end was a first. I couldn't believe how I was was able to tackle that hill and pick up the pace after feeling so rotten the previous miles. It was a pretty awesome feeling!

I ended up a pacer for someone. =) Apparently my boss and his wife were trying to keep up with me which I didn't know this until after the race. He is very fast and often places in his AG but she is more of a casual runner and she has never broken 30:00 for a 5K and that was her goal for this race. He decided to run with her to help pace her and apparently I helped pace her too. They know I'm a quick on my feet so they decided if they could keep up with me, she'd meet her time goal. He said they did a pretty good job until I had that surge of energy that came out of no where and he commented he was pretty impressed with the way I picked it up like that. By the way, she did complete the race under 30 minutes and thanked me for "helping" her.

I mentioned the cheerleaders earlier. What's funny is with this race, they have live results and you can have your splits and results texted to people or post to your Twitter or Facebook feed as you pass the sensors. Even though they changed my information associated with that bib number, apparently the live results were still being texted to the people the woman whose bib it was originally. She told me after the race her husband, her running coach, and herself were virtually cheering me on and congratulated me for a great race and for picking it up at the end like I did. Virtual cheerleaders indeed. LOL Of course, they didn't know this was my worst race ever but it was still kind of cool they were cheering me on. I got kudos from some running elites. How could I be upset about that?!

So this year's Friday Night Lights will go down as the worst race in history for me and the first race where I actually ran as horribly as I felt but considering how many races I've done so far, one out of 30+ really isn't all that bad. I'm glad that rather than feeling defeated by it, I have been able to take a step back and accept every race can't be an unexpected victory and that even in a bad race, not only can you learn from it, you can still find something positive about it, too.

Stats
Mile splits 8:53, 9:17, 9:07

7/27 AG
118/276 Females
327/554 OA

Running with the Devil: Rock Hall HM/Rock City 10K Race Report 8.20.17

The devil on my shoulder refers to the negative thoughts that go through my brain when I am either running or racing. It's that voice that tells me I can't do this or other negative self talk. It totally messes with my confidence and it really can wreak havoc on a person's performance if you let it. If you're a runner, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. A lot of times I am able to fend him off. This would not be one of those times.

The 3rd Annual Rock Hall HM/Rock City 10K/5K is a race in DT Cleveland with the start and finish at the Rock Hall. It has always been one of my favorite races because the course has gone through the downtown city streets, there is a great race vibe with great race bling, and the post-race goodies never disappoint. They also have cool gender-specific shirts and this year they even gave us Brooks technical ones! This was the first year they offered a 10K distance and they also included a HM 3-person relay and even virtual races. In the past two years, I've done the 5K and both years not only did I place 1st and 2nd in my AG respectively, I've also set lifetime 5K PRs both years so I was torn whether I should try for year #3 of retaining my AG placing, PR the course again, see if I could beat my current PR from a 5K I did on Mother's Day this year, or run the new 10K. When I learned they changed the 5K course, I was glad I signed up for the 10K because it wouldn't be an apples-to-apples comparison from the previous years….that is until I found out both the 5K and 10K courses would be an out and back from the Rock Hall, down the Marginal (the road that runs north and south along Routes 2 and 90 heading into the city). There is no shade and not a lot of green space so the temperature is always warmer because of the heat coming off of the pavement. Plus, it is a straight shot and extremely boring with nothing really interesting to look at which makes it seem like it goes on forever, and ever, AND ever. I refer a course such as this as a death march and one of the reasons I've always said I would never run the HM offered because the last 3 or so miles of that race went down the Marginal with a hill right at the end a few hundred years from the finish line. This year, the 5K and 10K runners would be getting share in the "fun" now too because all of our races would finish that very same way and not only that, I'd get to do the death march x 2 having to run down it and then back. Yay me! Maybe I should have signed up to do the 5K after all.

The course
All distances started and ended at the Rock Hall with all the races joining each other at some point. I've already talked about course above so I don't really have much to say but here's a picture of what the 10K looked like and the elevation profile. This year they had live bands playing along the course every few miles. That was something new they added.



Not really as flat as I thought it was going to be.

Goals
With the on again, off again, "it's your-hamstring-but-not-your-hamstring issues" I have been having, I haven't been doing a lot of speed work AKA racing this summer. Even though I've raced the 10k distance twice before (the Kiss Me I’m Irish 10K held in March 2016 and 2017), without having a lot of fast running under my belt lately, I really didn't know what to expect. I was hoping that with this course being relatively flat and the Kiss Me race being hilly and curvy, I'd at LEAST be able to beat my 10K PR of 53:20 if only by a couple seconds. Since this was a new race for me, my other goal as it is for any new race, was to place in the top 10 but I thought that might even be too adventurous since this race has been heavily advertised over the past year all over the country and was the first time the race had a local TV station as a sponsor so I assumed all the super speedy ladies in my AG would be showing up making the competition fierce and darn near impossible to beat. Lastly, my self-confidence was still kind of in the dumps after my horrible performance during that Friday night 5K in July and quite honestly was kind of afraid to race again for fear of blowing it so I had no idea what to expect and was just going to wing it see how things played out.

Black cat strikes again
I am not sure what it is about my silly cat and her always wanting to sit on my race get up when I'm trying to get it ready the night before. Hmmm...maybe she would give me some black cat luck like she did when she sat on my race get up for the 5 Miler (a race I unexpectedly killed it at) I did 5 days before my Friday Night 5K bomb but I wasn't counting on it.

Silly cat!

Running with the devil begins
I am lucky if I can get 3-4 hours of continuous sleep on any given night but for some reason when I went to bed Saturday night, I CRASHED and slept the entire night so when my alarm went off at 4:52, I turned it off completely forgetting that I had a race and went back to sleep. Figures the morning I am actually sleeping I can't enjoy. Luckily I woke up again and at 5:45, I got out of bed to start getting ready. Good thing but the devil on my shoulder, who I had trying to keep at bay all week, started playing the mind games. Race morning was not starting off on the right foot and I started having my doubts about the race itself. After my two cups of coffee, a bite of a banana, we headed out the door. As we were driving, I started obsessing about how horrible the death march was going to be and Paul brought up a good point that I'd be running right by the lake and would be able to see the boats and such so that made me feel a little bit better. Also, in past years it has been so humid and nasty but this year is was in the upper 60s and the humidity was pretty low. There is some positive self talk…maybe this race wouldn't be so bad after all.

Yep, devil isn't going anywhere
Luckily we only live about 25 minutes from the city and we didn't have to worry about parking this race. They were expecting 2,500 people and parking can be kind of a pain when the race is smaller with a 1,000 but Paul and Rick were volunteering at a water stop and were going to park there so we got off at East 9th right in front of the Rock Hall, I jumped out, and Paul and Rick drove over to where they needed to be. I was happy they were assigned the stop on the Marginal between HM mile marker 11 and 12 so I would get to see them during the last 2-3 miles of my race especially since I wouldn't have them (or anyone else I thought) cheering me on at the finish.

It was absolutely PACKED (and this is just the front of the Rock Hall):



The races were staggered so the HM started at 7:15, the 10K started at 7:30, and the 5K started at 7:45. I had about 25 minutes to use the restrooms and get a quick warm up in so I was there in plenty of time…or so I thought. I decided to make my way through the crowd of people towards the porta johns and found this: 



Yes, that's the line and when I took that picture I only had 15 minutes until race time so I started to panic…was it a bathroom break (which I desperately needed) or a warm up because I would not have time for both. I could not believe with the amount of people they were anticipating that that was the ONLY row of bathrooms. The line barely moved and that only made the devil on my shoulder worse. Luckily, one of my friends (John) whom I didn't know was running the 10K too, saw me and said there was a whole other row of bathrooms behind the ones I was waiting in line for and there were only 20 people in line so we made a mad dash over there. Can you tell there is another row behind those porta johns? No, me neither and it would have been nice if there was a sign letting the runners know this or to have the race announcer say something. It's not like they couldn't see the line because just to the left of me is where HM startling line was and all distance finish lines were. While we were waiting in line, John asked what kind of time I was looking at so I told him I'd hope to at least like to match or beat my PR from the March 10K and would be happy with anything around 53:00.

With 10 minutes to spare, I had just enough time for a quick warm up so off I went away from the crowd. These races usually have a starting mat so even if I wasn't right there when the gun went off, it wouldn’t matter so I wasn't TOO worried and thought maybe NOW this race wouldn't be so bad…Oh but wait, there's more.

Where oh where is the starting line
All the races were supposed to start at the same spot like they did last year but apparently that wasn't the case. When I was done with my warm up, I went to where the HM racers began and I was wondering where the heck all the 10K people were. Only a couple minutes and no start flags, no 10K runners. I started to panic and started making my way over to the Browns stadium up the street a bit because I knew from looking at the course map that we'd be running around it. I still couldn't see a starting line and asked someone if they knew where the race began and the person told me they announced they moved the start actually at the Browns Stadium (missed that announcement because of my warm up) so I started running and finally found all the other 10K people. I also saw one of the XC moms (Laurie) who is runner and is one of the serious contenders in her AG. Luckily, she is not in mine and therefore not my competition but she is faster than I am and little did I know how much she was going to help me during this race. We chatted for a bit and just as we think it's time to go, they start moving the start flags so instead of starting at the stadium and running around it and then toward the Marginal, we would now be running in FRONT of the stadium and making our way there. This race has been so well run the past two years I couldn't believe what a mess things seemed to be and other runners were obviously annoyed like I was. Anyway, so they started the countdown and the gun went off. I kept waiting to cross over the timing mat so I could start my Garmin but there wasn't one in sight so apparently this was going to be a gun start. It's a darn good thing I found out about those other bathrooms because had I got up to the starting line only to find out it was a gun start, I would have been miffed. After a few seconds when I realized there was no mat, I started my watch. Needless the say, all of this added more fuel to the fire where the devil is concerned, throwing me even more off my game, and it was at that point, I was pretty sure the devil was there to stay.

Running with the devil
There was a slight breeze which made for a decent start but I just felt so far off my game and no matter what technique I tried, I just could NOT shake the negative self talk and ran that way pretty much the entire race. I decided I was not going to look at my watch and just run. I think I looked once or twice at a mile split but that was it. The devil kept telling me the race was doomed from the start and seeing how slow I thought I was running was only going to make matter worse. I tried not to look at the freeway signs because then I'd know how much further I had to go and with each passing mile, it felt like a constant struggle to just keep moving and my brain kept focusing on how tired and horrible I was feeling but I tried to combat that with telling myself to just slow down if I needed too.

It was also struggle with as they say "my race, my pace" when it came to Laurie. Even though she is the 55-59 AG and not my competition in that regard, she's pretty darn fast and I can only think of one race we were in together where I had a faster time, and that was only because she was running with a friend who had just started running and who was much slower than both of us. For this race, we started off together, she got head of me, and I was able to pass her and keep my lead for awhile but in between miles 3 and 4, there was a hill going up to E 55th where we'd run across the bridge and then back down the other side of the Marginal heading back to the city. Doesn't look like much of a hill in a car but running it was another story and I was struggling pretty bad as it was so it felt like a mountain. As soon as we descended the hill on the other side to head back, Laurie took the lead and I would see the back of her for the remainder of the race. I kept telling myself I didn't have to run as fast as she was and it was ok that she was in the lead but pretty much fought that devil the rest of the race, too. However, I did make it my goal to no let her get too far ahead of me and that kept me moving.

We passed the water stop where her husband and boys were volunteering and since she didn't stop, neither did I. I didn't want her to gain too much of a lead. The death march was just as bad as I thought it was going to be because remember how Paul thought I'd be able to see the lake and just focus on that? Well, that part of the Marginal goes in front of a small airport so all you got to see what the runway…no lake, no boats. And the temperatures had started to rise so it was getting HOT…ANNND there was no shade and what little breeze there was at the beginning of the race was gone. This was a death march for sure. I forced myself to not look at the gates along the fence of the airport because I knew Rick and Paul were at Gate 11 (which was still a way aways at this point) and I'd still have some miles to go once I saw them so I just tried to focus on Laurie and tried to keep running at our paces. One thing good I can say is I noticed I wasn't getting passed by a lot of people which I thought was odd because I'm ALWAYS getting passed so that was a little bit of a mental boost. I was taking whatever I could get at this point. Who knew what not getting passed by many people would mean later on.

To stop or not to stop
I really felt like I was losing steam and my mental game was shot so I started to think if maybe I'd stop at the water stop where Rick, Paul, several of Rick's XC teammates, and the two assistant coaches were and maybe take a short walk break, drink some water, and start running again I would be ok. As we approached the water stop, Laurie didn't stop and again, I didn’t want her to get too far ahead plus, I got a little boost a from everyone cheering us on so I grabbed a cup of water from Rick on the fly, attempted to take a drink (failing miserably) and kept going. Paul yelled out to me that I needed to catch Laurie and I yelled back "I can't!" Ha! There's that devil hanging on with only 2 or so miles to go.

Hmmm, maybe there's hope
I eventually got to the spot where the 5K runners joined the 10K and HM course. At first, I just kept thinking about how much farther I had to go and also started dreading the hill at the end right before the finish. The hill at the E 55th bridge about killed me, there was no way I'd be able to manage that hill and have a strong finish. I was a little annoyed because there were SO many people (most of them walkers) and I thought I'd have to do a lot of bob and weaving but it actually wasn't bad at all AND it actually helped with that dang devil! I was passing everyone so in my mind I pretended I was in the 5K too and being able to pass people completely changed the way I was feeling mentally and before I knew it, I sailed up that hill like it was no one's business and the finish line was in my sights.

"Rock star" finish
Since I wasn't watching my Garmin, I had no idea where I was time-wise and all I was focused on was the finish and not the clock. My friend, John, usually places in his AG so he finished well ahead of me and to be honest, I forgot that he was even at the race. I didn't realize he was waiting at the finish for the final push until all the sudden there he was and I heard him say "Joy, look at the clock, you're in the 50:00s and when I looked up, holy Moses I sure was and I was able to give it one last kick. I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin. 50:57 and new PR by over three minutes! Well look at that!!! Completely out of breath, I grabbed the water and finisher's medal they were handing out at the finish line and took a walk so I could get my breathing back under control. John found me and we headed over to the computers were to check our official times and see how we fared against everyone else in the 10K. I could NOT believe my eyes when I saw I was 1st in my AG!!!! I was floored. My official chip time was 51:02 and another bronze guitar to add to my award wall! John placed 1st in his AG so we took each other's pictures in front of the computer monitors that displayed our stats and headed over for some post-race goodies: bananas, watermelon, cookies, and pizza. Yum! They also had bottled water, some new sports drink that was one of the sponsors, coconut water, and fruit popsicles from a local place I refer to as the Starbucks of organic and local fruit juice smoothies/beverages and other healthy food options. I was surprised the watermelon and beet juice one I grabbed didn't taste half bad.

They always have GREAT race bling and everyone gets a finisher's medal:


I ended up finding Laurie whom I had lost in the sea of people right before the hill toward the finish. With her chip time of 50:50, she placed 2nd in her AG and I was pretty dang pleased with myself I was only 12 seconds behind her. Guess I hung with her better than I thought. I also found my co-worker who had walked the 5K. We usually meet up before a race but it was just a cluster that morning I completely forgot to call her and tell her I was there. They decide to hand out the awards at the finish line rather than over in front of the Rock Hall so people could still cheer on runners which was a nice change. They also had Elvis and the cougar mascot from a local radio station so when I went up to get my award, I high fived both of them. What's not to love about getting a high five from Elvis, especially after you just killed it!




After the awards were done, Laurie and I walked to where our families were volunteering. It was fun cheering on everyone else who was finishing the race as we walked in the opposite direction they were coming. When we got to Paul and Rick's spot, we all chatted for a bit and I thanked her for being my pacer (unbeknownst to her) and helping me finish the race. She said goodbye and headed further down where her DH and sons were.

Final thoughts
This race was probably THE most mentally challenging race to date for two reasons: that dastardly devil I was never able to fend of completely and the course itself. I think had things gone a little smoother before the race, I would have had a better mindset in the beginning. As for the course, I often run out and back routes during my training runs so that wasn't the problem so much but rather where this particular course was, the fact there was no shade, there was nothing exciting around you to look at to keep your mind distracted, and things that aren't that far away by car seem like an eternity when you're on foot. Had the course gone through the downtown city streets, I know it would not have been so bad mentally. I talked to several people before and after the race and they agreed what a less-than-desirable and boring course it was. I even know one person who said she could be paid enough money to run it was so I wasn't alone in my thinking.

When you look at my splits below, you can definitely tell I was slowing down as the race went on, namely during/after the E 55th bridge. Of course I would have preferred negative splits and if they weren't negative, at least be at little bit closer than they were but at the end of the day, it's the time you cross the finish line that matters and I am still very thrilled with my performance.

It kind of dawned on me as I was writing this that the reason I was feeling so "crappy" and tired during wasn't because I was racing poorly but quite the contrary. I was pushing myself and had it felt easier, would I have been running at my full potential? Probably not. I will definitely keep this in mind and try to "embrace the suck" a little more next time because it usually means good things.

Even though I ran with the devil and wasn't able to get the positive talk working for me like it did during the 5 Miler I ran in early July, I was still able to use racing strategies that have worked with me in the past at other races: not looking at my Garmin and having a target who this time happened to be Laurie.

Laurie and I both figured when there weren't a whole lot of people passing us nor were there really a lot of people around us in general during the race that it was just a REALLY small race (like less than 100). Little did we know this was because we were in FRONT of everyone.

In closing, for a race that I thought was doomed from the start and was a constant battle with the devil on my shoulder ended up and with yet another unexpected "rock star" finish, just as it has the past two years. Never, ever did I think I would even place in my AG, much less get 1st and once again, the Rock Hall race did not disappoint. Three years, 3 AG placings, and a PR every single year? I guess I can tell that devil where it can go…. LOL

Thanks for taking the time to read if you made it all the way to the end. =)



Stats
51:02
8:12 pace
1/ 24 AG
14/222 Females
38/305 Overall

Splits
8:11
8:10
8:09
8:21 (guess you can kind of figure where the E 55th bridge was)
8:26
8:35
7:35

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elijah Update and Team "Just Keep Swimming...and Running" Official Team Photo

I apologize for the delay in posting our official team picture but I would like once again thank everyone who helped support The Gathering Place’s Race for the Place 5K by either joining my team “Just Keep Swimming…and Running” or making a donation. Together we raised over $1,000 and I am “overjoyed” by the love and support from friends and family for a cause that is so near and dear to my heart. As you know, I dedicated this year’s race to my friend and inspiration, Elijah Smart, and while it’s been a crazy summer and we haven’t been able to get together since the race, his mom and I have kept in contact and she posted an update yesterday which I would like to share with all of you:

“Heard from the cardiologist for Elijah today. The results from his 24 hour test was fantastic. Dr. said he'd like to see him in 6 months but if the results are as good as these he won't have to go again. Praise God! We have prayed for God to restore Elijah's body to complete health and to protect his organs and body from adverse effects of the chemo! Thank you God for answering. Tomorrow he has blood work again and I expect continued good results. God has answered and my baby is healed!”

Thank you again for all your continued support and prayers for Elijah and his family. They are truly making a difference in their lives.

The Race for the Place will be held on Sunday, June 3, 2018 and I will once again have a team so mark your calendars and join us for a great race for a wonderful cause.


Just Keep Swimming...and Running 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race 7.9.17

I honestly intended on keeping this short, sweet, and to the point. You can see I failed miserably. I've added subheads for those who want to skip the fluff. LOL


The Course


The Johnnycake Jog 5 Mile Race is very popular and competitive. It's one of the few USTAF certified courses locally (as far as I know anyway) and it draws people from all over the country. This was it’s 41st year and last year for the 40th anniversary, they added a 5K distance. The course is relatively flat with a sneaky, gradual hill between miles 1 and 2. Sneaky meaning when you drive it in your car, you'd barely know it was an incline but running it is a different story. Not a killer hill, you just don’t realize how long it is and since maybe people start off too fast as it is, that hill can make or break how you do the rest of the race.


The route is pretty basic and all right turns. The first stretch along a road outside the county fairgrounds, the second is down a busy but residential road call Johnnycake Ridge Road, hence the name of the race, with a little shade here and there (but not much), and the final stretch is what I call the death march: 1.75 miles in full sun straight down a very busy 5 lane road surrounded by shopping plazas. Basically a concrete jungle with next to no green space so the heat from the concrete makes it feel 100 times warmer. It seems to go on forever…and ever… AND ever with no finish arch in sight most of the way. It literally can be a death march if it’s hot and humid because you get absolutely no break from the sun and if there was any breeze, you wouldn't feel it because of the buildings. We were lucky this year because of the unseasonably cool and wet summer we've been having here on the North Coast, race-time temps were in the upper 60s/low 70s and the humidity wasn't bad, at least not at race time.


If there are two things people “complain” about this race is that sneaky hill in the beginning and the death march at the end and several people swear they will never run the race again because of one, the other, or both…only to show up the next year. Waving hand…that was me… matter of fact, I said it in 2015 but went back for more in 2016…this year made round #3 LOL. 

Ironic it is held in the City of Painesville? I think not.

To race or not to race, that is the question

For the past month, I have been dealing with what I thought was a hamstring issue so I haven’t raced since June’s Race for the Place 5K. I have been taking it easy ever since which means I’ve had to pass on all the races I was planning on doing and have done more run/walks than runs in an effort to keep whatever what’s going on in my back of my left leg at bay. I went back and forth whether I should attempt this but I wanted to do this race because A. it’s the only 5 miler locally I am liking mid-distance races more and more and B. my son., Rick, was going to run it and it’s one of the very few races we can do together because of him being in track and cross country and not being allowed to run road races during those seasons. I waited until a couple days before the race to sign up and once I picked up our packets, I was really excited to be finally able to be in a race again at whatever capacity that would be.

Goals


Knowing how competitive this race is, in the years I’ve done it, I’ve never expected to get an AG placing because the women in my AG are just too dang fast. We're talking finish times in the low 30s. As with any other race, I look at the previous years times and try to gauge where I might fit in. In 2015, my goal was to place in the top 15. I came in 10th. In 2016, my goal was to make the top 10. I came in 7th. For repeat races, I always make it a goal to beat the time from the previous year. In 2015, my time was 46:57 and in 2016 it was 43:25. Since I haven’t been able to do any fast running in over a month, I really thought it was going to have a negative impact on my race time plus given the fact that most of my miles over the last month have been run/walk miles and not all running miles AND throw in I haven't actually ran 5 miles without having to take walk breaks in the last month, I pretty much decided my only goal for this year was just to be able to finish because I didn't even know I was going to be able to run it, much less race it. If a top 10 placement and PR miraculously happened, it would be icing on the cake but I definitely wasn’t counting on it. With that said, I decided for this race I would not worry about what my Garmin said and just run completely by feel and see how it went. In past races, I usually end up making that decision after I'm already well into the race but this time I decided to do it from the get go. This would truly be a race where time was not a factor and I would just run for fun. I was leaving everything out on the course.

Queen of mysterious injuries


As most of you know, whatever has been going on with the back of my left leg has been a bit of a mystery. It really did come out of no where and even the PT isn't sure what's going on. Well, if that wasn't bad enough when it came to my anticipated race performance, I woke up Saturday morning barely able to walk. The ball of my left foot was on FIRE. Seriously, it hurt to walk. I have NO idea what happened either. I ran Friday and was fine, was fine all day at work, even walked the beach with Paul Friday night after dinner (I've walked that beach more times than I can count and was even there just a few weeks ago and didn't have any problems). I know I didn’t step on anything so yet again, another mysterious injury. While the pain subsided a bit throughout the day, I could still feel something and I was so upset because here I was racing for the first time in over a month and now this! And it wasn't even just a 5K… it was 5 miles! How the heck was I going to do this?! I hoped that maybe the pain would just go away on Sunday morning as mysteriously as it came so I proceeded to get my race outfit ready Saturday night.


Of course, my black cat decided she needed to lay on my race outfit and I was trying to get it ready. Like I needed any more "bad" luck for this race. However, her name IS Hope and I DID pick out my "unstoppable" "hope" Balega running socks to wear... Hmmmmm...

Race Morning


I slept like crap all night obsessing about my foot and praying that when I got out of bed, I would be miraculously cured. Nope, I stepped out of bed Sunday morning and was hardly able to walk again. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do. Do I even attempt to do this or just bag it all together? Do I try it and if my foot doesn't improve, do I turn off at the 5K turn off just to get back to the fairgrounds faster? Do I take my phone (which I don’t usually race with because I have my iPod Nano) in case I am in such excruciating pain I need to have Paul come pick me up? I was at a total loss. I thought about wearing the new pair of shoes that haven't been broken in yet but even though they are the same make and model as what I've been running in for the last year and a half, I was worried if that would make matter worse. Goodness knows I didn't need any MORE running injuries. I also thought about going to the store to see if they had pads I could use to cushion the ball of my foot with but we were running out of time and I didn't know if they'd have what I needed. Wouldn’t you know I was looking through a drawer in the bathroom right before we were getting ready to leave and I found two silicone foot pads I forgot I had! Yay! I doubled them up and even though you're not supposed to try anything new on race day, I was willing to give it a whirl. Race morning cup off coffee done, banana eaten, foot pads inserted, it's time to go!

Warm Up


We parked our Jeep in a shopping plaza a little less than a 1/4 mile from the staging area which is at the county fairgrounds. My foot ached but at least I could walk. But how about run? That was the question. Once we got to the staging area, Rick and I decided to go for a warm up run. Even though the padding helped, my foot was still sore but I decided I would attempt the 5 miles because if worse came to worse, I'd just walk to the finish. I could at least manage that. 


Race time


The 5 mile started at 8 am and the 5K started at 8:15 so when they announced for the 5 milers to head to the starting line, we said goodbye to Paul went to find our spots. Rick saw one of his XC friends closer to the front so we wished each other luck and I went a little further back. Last year I purposely put myself closer to the back so I didn't start out too fast but it was so aggravating having to weave around people, strollers, etc. (there are several hundred runners) so I was just far back enough where I wouldn't be in the way of the serious runners but close enough I would hopefully not have to deal with the usual mayhem. Since this race is all right hand turns, I decided to stand as close to the right side as possible. The gun went off and so did we.

What a different self-talk makes


I remember reading the article "Talk yourself through a better 5k" on RW not too long ago and decided to use some of the strategies mentioned. One was replacing the “Uh-oh, I started too fast” thought with “This is what I’ve trained for.” Another was how dwelling on how hard a effort feels makes it worse so rather focus on how well you're doing. I think this is the first race I've done where I completely let go of all thoughts about how fast I started out and bad I was feeling in any particular moment during the race right from the start. There have been other races I've kind of let go midway through but this was the first time I went into a race with this mindset. I would tell myself "this is the speed that I am running at this moment and right now I feel good. If it gets to be too much, I will just scale it back as needed and enjoy just being out there." In all honesty, that's what racing is all about to me…it's not about winning or placing. Don't get me wrong, those are nice when they happen, but those are not the end all, be all in my opinion. Racing is about being out there doing something I never dreamed possible. Not to mention, the race vibe is such a rush and I am highly addicted to it.

Wow, let me tell you what a difference freeing your mind makes!! I will admit I looked at my watch one time a couple minutes into the race because old habits die hard and I think it might have been in the 7's but I didn't obsess about it like I usually do. The only other times I would glance my watch was when it would vibrate after every mile because I wanted to see how closely my Garmin matched the course mile markers. Quiet honestly, I couldn't believe when I saw numbers in the 8s! I certainly didn't feel like I was running that fast. That right there had many positive mental effects because I actually felt good and not like I was dying. What's funny is even though I happened to notice my numbers were in the 8s, it didn't really compute how well I was really doing. I've never been good when it comes to numbers anyway LOL.

The miles


It always impresses me how so many of my running friends can break down a race mile by mile and write about things that happened during each specific one. I thought I would try that for this race but the miles just all blend together now and my short term memory stinks so here are just some general things about the race that stand out.

I must have picked a good spot to start this race because even though the crowd didn't thin out until about mile 3 or so, I rarely did a lot of bob and weaving. Perhaps I just happen to pick the right people behind who were running my speed. There was yet again one little boy whom I though was going to constantly cut me off which always seems to happen but not this time. Whew.

I used my usual race strategy of picking out a person ahead of me trying to stick with them. If I passed them up, I'd find someone else.

It was pretty amazing that I felt zero foot pain when I ran and when I got to the sneaky hill where I thought my hamstring my bark, it was like there was never an issue at all. Even after the race and throughout the remainder of the day…no foot pain, no back of leg pain. As I write this though, the ball of my foot still hurts. I can run just fine but walking is still painful and my back of leg business was completely gone until this morning. So.weird.


Perfect playlist


Music played a huge part in this race and rather than make a new playlist, I decided to use the one I made for the 10 Mile Drop. I will always be one of those people who run with music and I've talked about why before so I won't go there again. When I run on the treadmill, the only way I have found I can tolerate it is by watching music videos. I go off to another world. Often times I will have my own little concert going on, too, complete with air drums (I'm sure the people at the gym think I'm crazy). Well that's kind of what I did during this race. I figured if this was supposed to be a race for fun, I might as well go with it! LOL A song would come on and I would just zone into the music. There were a couple times I did some head banging, fist pumps and I think I even played air drums at one point. Now mind you, I wasn't obnoxious about it but I am sure the people behind me thought I was off my rocker.

Even though my playlist is set to shuffle, the songs that came on as certain times could not have been any more perfect. Rather than talk about all of them, I will only name a couple. The first song when the race started was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. I was my "power song" when I ran my first HM in honor of my dad and because this is already long enough, I won't go into why that song has such meaning but feel free to visit my blog post about it if you want to know more. It was the perfect song to start off with because I thought back to my determination to finish that HM and how I was determined to finish this race even if it meant I had to walk. Another one worth mentioning is "Ready to Go" by Republica. I distinctly remember it starting right around mile 3 because shortly after the mile marker is when you make your last right turn and start the death march toward the finish. I will be honest as mile 3 approached, the negative thoughts started creeping into my head. It was nearing 80 degrees, there were no clouds, and the death march was coming…worst part of the race! But the song came on and I took that as sign that I was ready to take those last 2 miles head on. Death march be damned!! Power of positive thinking at work once again! There are other songs that had other significant effects on my performance but I will just leave you with those two.


The Death March


If the death march isn't bad enough and not being able to see the finish arch for what seems like an eternity, looking at the shops and plazas as you are running past and realizing just how far away you really are makes it only worse. This year I decided I was only going to focus on what was ahead of me and not what I was running past (which in turns maked me think about how much farther I still have to go). Good strategy. I also focused on the two people who were running in front of me. I had been thinking how I was going to approach the last mile and if I was going to try and gun it as I got closer to the finish line. It was hot and I was pretty tired at this point so I decided I was going to just keep the pace with the people ahead of me and not push for a fast finish. A couple of us leap frogged a bit and while I was able to pass one woman, I was never able to pass the other. That's ok though, I never let her get more than a few strides ahead of me.

I'm not sure at what point I saw Paul along side of the road but I gave him a high five as I passed and said "I'm nailing it" because I was still running and hadn't needed a single walk break. I had no clue how true that statement would be just a few minutes later. I know he said something to me because at this point I had taken one of my earbuds off and turned down my music so I could hear the crowd, something I do at every race, but I couldn't tell you what he said…I was on a death march to the finish and that was my focus but seeing him must have put a little more pep in my step because I could feel myself starting to pick up the pace. And then I saw Rick in the long line of people cheering right before the shoot and also heard one of the XC kids call out my name which always gives me a little more oomph but the biggest oomph of all was seeing the time clock at 41 something and realizing that I was just about to PR this race….so I dug as deep as I could and crossed the finish line. I grabbed a water and walked around for a couple minutes trying to catch my breath. I saw a couple of people from the running club so we chatted for a bit. Paul and Rick eventually found me when Paul showed me my official time (gotta love live results), I just couldn't not believe the numbers I saw. Official time 41:19, a PR by over 2 minutes! We headed over to the building where the computers with the results and post race snacks (bananas, pizza, and my favorite, bagel bites) were. If PR-ing by 2+ minutes wasn't enough of a high, seeing that I placed 4th in my AG and moved up in the ranks yet again, all with my mysterious ailments, put me right over the edge. I jumped up and down like a kid with excitement.


Rick wanted between 35:00 and 40:00. Not to bad for his first road race since both ankle sprains.


I wanted to hang around for the group picture with the running club which I always miss so we headed over to the tent and I got to meet a few people I chat with on Facebook but have never met in person.


Takeaways


The main one is how self-talk can make or break a race. This is the very first race where I didn't dwell on how bad I was feeling but rather how good I was feeling. I didn't worry about whether I started out to fast, I just ran. Even when it came time for the death march, the way I approached it and ran it mentally was a huge game changer. If you haven' t read the article I mentioned about, I highly recommend it.

Once again, racing with no expectations yielded results I never imagined. I thought for sure I'd either have to DNF or take walk breaks so I went into this race with the intention of just having fun…and look, not only did I have fun, but I kicked some butt while I was at it!

Because I was feeling so good during the race and still running at a pretty decent clip, does that mean I wasn't pushing myself hard enough? Don't get me wrong, I didn't feel like I was taking a leisurely stroll but I'm wondering if that's where the positive self-talk was coming into play or if I really had more to give. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Just something I think about.

Going forward, I will not worry about what my watch says, especially in the beginning of a race. I planned on taping it for this race but forgot until we were already on our way. I may just do that for the next race though. If I remember, that is LOL.

I have to say with the exception of the 1st and 2nd miles where I had to deal with running in the herd and then sneaky hill, I am pretty impressed with myself how consistent my mile split were and I wasn't even trying…I was just running. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this running thing after all.

This race confirmed all the more that I'm really not a fan of 5Ks and I am more of a mid-distance kinda girl. It sealed the deal as to what distance to pick for next month's Rock Hall HM/Rock City 5K race. They are offering a 10K distance this year and I've been going back and forth between trying my hand at the 10K or stick with the 5K because both years I've set my PR for the year and also won 1st and 2nd places in my AG. I think I'll try the 10K and see how I fare.

Lastly, having to take time off and not race and run like I would like to this past month apparently had no effect on my race times like I thought it was going to. This is a HUGE mental boost for me because I've been feeling pretty discouraged lately. I can't wait for my next race!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this if you made it all the way here.


Stats
41:19 and a new PR
4/18 AG
48/192 Females
23/81 Female Masters
182/444 OA

Splits
8:18
8:36
8:02
8:05
8:04
6:27