Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: Run Santa Run 5K 12.17.17

I'm trying not to go into full on race report for this race so I'll try to keep this as brief as possible. The Run Santa Run 5K, benefiting Toys for Tots, is a very popular race and is usually a sell out. For whatever reason, the heavy hitters always come out for it so I've learned in the three years I've done it to not expect an AG placing but to try and at least improve where I rank. This year would be no exception. The swag is pretty cool. The local restaurant who is the main sponsor gives everyone a free Christmas Ale after the race, everyone gets a Santa hat, a decent t-shirt, and this year they gave out finishers medals rather than pint glasses.

The course 
I drove the course the night before because I wasn't sure with all the snow we have had if I was going to need my screwed shoes or not. Roads looked find but I didn't take into account the warmer temps followed by below freezing overnight. Needless to say, this made for some very slippery spots and as we were walking to the staging area, I was wondering if I made the wrong choice by not wearing my screwed shoes. I was also worried about Rick racing and falling too and must have told him five times to not try and kill it this race. 
Going into the race, my goals were to: 
  • 1st and foremost NOT slip and fall during this race which meant taking it slow if I had to
  • 2nd to PR the course if possible and beat 25:49 
  • 3rd try to move up to the top 5 in my AG. In three years I've gone from 15, to 12, to 6
However, with the knee problems I was having after the Oofos incident, I really wasn't sure how this race was going to go and I told myself getting to the finish line in one piece is all that mattered and would be ok if none of my other goals were met for this race. 

Rather than a play-by-play, I'll just make a few mentions about the race:
  • The race is always a major cluster because the staging area is at a local restaurant and the start is on a main road with lots of shopping plazas but little room and little green space so it's very congested. Even though they tell people who are not "racing" or those walking to get towards the back, people don't listen so everyone is all packed in this little area and when the gun goes off, it is almost impossible to get around the slower "I’m just here for the beer" runners. It's not until about mile 2 where it thins out enough where you're not constantly fighting the crowd.
  • I realized after my warm up I was completely overdressed for the 30 degree temps, not to mention the earbuds I borrowed from Rick because I couldn't find mine kept falling out, and my antlers that I wear every year and run in without issue kept falling off. So needless to say, I was already annoyed before the race even started and when the gun went off, I was even more crabby and irritated so that pretty much set the stage for the race. At no point did I ever feel "good" like I have the past two 5ks I've done recently. Quite honestly, I was miserable.
  • My knees surprisingly did better that what I expected but they still weren't 100% and hamstring was also making it's presence known as well as my hip. It was a good choice to take it easy the week prior because had I not, I probably would have had to walk some of the course.
  • I made the mistake of wearing the custom orthodics I just got Wednesday all day Saturday when you're supposed to transition into them gradually and was on my feet pretty much all day so it made for sore feet on Sunday.
  • There were slippery spots throughout the course and I decided after I slipped a few times it wasn't worth trying to catch up to Laurie (whom you know from my other races) or a woman from the running club I've gotten to be friends with. She is a real hoot and we stood together joking around while we waited for the gun to go off. She's 10 years younger than me and up until this point, she has had slower times than I have but she has apparently been on a mission to work them down and now has become one of the people I'll keep eye out of for if I want to race with a purpose and not just run for fun. The gun when off and she quickly disappeared into the crowd never to be seen again. I found out after the race she was trying to PR (and she did with a finish time of 24:44) so she was definitely running with the a purpose!
  • 5Ks are hard enough but not being used to running in the cold has put me at a huge disadvantage for two reason: my lungs aren't used to the cold and I was WAY overdressed. Both total worked against my mental game. I was sweaty and feeling overheated. I could even feel my feet sweating which always make my hands sweat and I had to take off my antlers and carry them so I was constantly having to switch hands not to drop them.
  • My first mile felt super slow because of the herd of cattle, my second mile felt even slower, and my last mile I thought for sure I was practically walking. I did glance at my watch once and only once….at the first mile…and when I saw my pace at 8:25, I thought for sure I'd be in the 26s as I crossed the finish line.
  • When made it back to the main road for the final stretch, I could see the arch in the distance and I decided there was nothing left in the tank for a final kick so I was just going to focus my energies on crossing the finish line. All I wanted was for this race to be OVER and it was doomed anyway, right? Well imagine my surprise when I could finally see the time clock and it was still in the 24s! I couldn’t believe it. I didn't have anything left to kick it, even when I saw Paul along side of the road cheering me on, so I just maintained my pace and crossed the finish. This race DEFINITELY ended WAAAY better than it started and I was pretty stoked.
I met up with Paul in the sea of people and the line was so long at the computers with people checking their results and Paul gets texts when I cross the finish line so I had him look since I didn't have my phone with me and sure enough, 25:22, a course PR and not only that, but I moved up the ranks in my AG by placing 5th! This definitely wasn't my fastest time of the year but all three of my goals were met and that, to me, means more than what the time clock said. Rick was technically 4th in his AG got bumped up to 2nd because the top 2 runners in his AG won other awards so he was pretty excited, too.

All in all, a great race with unexpected results even though it started out on the wrong foot LOL...and it was a great way to end the 2017 racing season.

181/922 OA 
69/577 Females
5/65 AG

8:25, 8:23, 8:04
Funny how I thought I was slowing down when actually I was running faster. Guess I had a kick after all. LOL

Being able to race with Rick was the best part of all

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. 

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. 

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


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.


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.

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.

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.

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. =)

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

8:21 (guess you can kind of figure where the E 55th bridge was)

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