Monday, February 25, 2013

Lessons Learned - Win Some, Lose Some

This would be the 3rd year in a row that I had signed up for the Hyannis ½ marathon in Hyannis. I am pretty sure I swore I would never do this race again after each time I crossed that finish line, but I think I was secretly hoping that maybe 3rd time lucky charm the weather would turn for the better, and maybe just maybe I would get to wear shorts in February instead of freezing my butt off like I have in the last 2 years. Oh boy, I couldn’t be more wrong! My first year in 2011 it snowed, in 2012 the combination of freezing cold with hurricane type headwinds made for a chilly race, and this weekend, we didn’t know if the race was even going to happen until the night before. Let’s just say that I was secretly hoping it would get cancelled, because running 13.1 miles on a rainy (very rainy) Sunday morning isn’t exactly how I like to spend my Sunday mornings, but the race was ON! 

We drove down race morning, and were able to park quite close to the start line but that proved to be NOT close enough post race. I whined and bitched quite a bit about the awesome weather we were treated to secretly hoping I would get to take a nap in the car while everyone else raced, but no luck. Come 10 am, I was sandwiched in between a huge crowd of people ready to once again follow the mini legs of coach Jorge. I was very well hydrated which was easily proven by about 5 bathroom trips in about a 30 min time span before the race which surely drove the boys a little crazy. What I found out a bit later (about 8 miles into the race), though I was well hydrated, I wasn’t very well fueled!

The first 7 miles went by pretty much as planned and on pace. I didn’t need pushing, I wasn’t falling behind, I was just trucking along, running in and out of huge puddles and getting soaked head to toe.  Then mile 8 came, and the energy I had for the first 7 miles was gone, totally gone. I went from averaging 6:57s to running a 7:27 mile 8 – OUCH! I ate my one and only gel I brought on course with me, but it was too late. That gel stood no chance, and my energy levels were very quickly disappearing. Gone baby gone. Hello Bonkville. I kept trying to pick up the pace, but just felt empty, awkwardly empty. My legs lost its pop, and weren’t responding to anything! Jorge tried it all, but when I didn’t bite to “This is where you win races”, he knew something wasn’t right. (Well I am sure he knew before he said that, but that was his final confirmation along with my freight train breathing, and very little responsiveness). I secretly wished he would just run away from me and let me be, and not 2 minutes later, my wishes came true. He left me with a few more words of wisdom that were aimed at putting things into perspective, which in the heat of the moment didn’t really sit well with me, but he couldn’t be more right.  I love to win (who doesn’t) and most importantly give it my all regardless of A, B, C or D races, and yesterday was the day when leaving it all out there didn’t mean a “W” but meant a learning experience. My performance wasn’t what I knew I was capable of doing, but it was what I was capable of on that day.  Feeling empty, soaking went from head to toe, in freezing rain, and with almost 5 miles left to go, I really wanted to stop – just walk for a minute or two, but the thought of throwing away 7 very good miles wouldn't let me. Plus stopping would mean that I would almost immediately turned into a shivering popsicle and that wasn't an option. I spent the last 5 miles trying to pick it up, only to fall back into my trot because it just wasn't there. Not even the random guy on the side of the road who told me you are 15th female with 1.5 miles left with at least 3 girls in sight made any difference. I tried to pretend I was running down Ali’I drive in the last mile, but that didn't do the trick either. Ouch! I just wanted to make it to that finish line, get into dry clothes and eat, which is just what happened, and eat I did! I sure can consume large amounts of food and not feel full. The tape worm was out in full force on Sunday! ;) 

I have a very good idea of what went wrong, and I will learn from it. The best part about this race was to get a confirmation (and no, I didn’t really need one) of how well my coach really knows me! He actually knows me a bit better than I know myself. Few weeks ago, he wouldn’t leave me alone and got the every last ounce of energy out of my legs during that 5 mile race, and yesterday he could have done the same, but he didn’t! Instead – he let me deal with my own self once he figured out that today was not the day. I’ll leave you with few of his words about yesterday:
“It’s part of knowing your athlete. There are times to push them, times to hold them back, times to let them do their thing, times to let them figure it out on their own”

Yesterday was one of those days, where being left alone was the right call, and exactly what I needed and wanted. The last 5 miles, I went in and out of wanting to stop, to trying to push through, to just moving along and ticking off the miles. I didn’t run a new PR, but I learned a few lessons. Bonking isn’t fun, and giving in isn’t an option. I didn’t give in, and later found out I ended up running good enough for 3rd AG/376, and 14th /1271 overall female.Now it’s back to training and onto the next one, with a little extra fire burning in that belly and legs that will be recovered a bit faster from this race than the last.

How well does your coach know you, and how do you deal with adversity? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Something a bit different and not written by me

When I came back from Hawaii, I was asked by my alma mater to share a little bit about myself, and where I have been since I graduated back in 2005. Kevin did a great job, and I think I should maybe hire him as my blog writer ;)

Read on:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Push It!

This past weekend I ran my really first road race ever. Ok – maybe second if you count the 4 mile road race I did back in 2008 when I would run on the treadmill and rode the spin bike to stay in shape. It was a chilly snowy Superbowl Sunday morning, and here I was 4+ years later, toeing the line of a 5 mile road race  with almost 1200 people and more than half being women!  Only 5 miles, not 13.1, not 70.3 nor 140.6. How hard could this be? ;) You probably know where I am going with this – running 5 miles all out is hard! Very hard! Especially hard, when your coach decides to pace you along the way, and he can run 6:30s backwards. I am going to be honest, I didn’t think I could run 6:30s for 5 miles because I have never done it in training – heck, last time I ran a full mile or maybe some mile repeats at that pace was last summer when I was in the best shape of my life. I am not in that kind of shape right now, and though I was excited I was a bit afraid, and scared of what may happen if I start to struggle after mile 1. The race plan was simple. Shut off your brain and just run. That is easily said than done, but how fitting, I happened to stumble across Kelly Williamson’s blog earlier that week, and her message really hit home. You can read it here: She talked about a fear of failure, and also the potential for success always including risk. She went on to say this:

“As an athlete is that we cannot paralyze ourselves with a fear of failure. If we let ourselves go there, we are finished. It is no different than quitting a session or a race because things are not going as we had planned (or hoped) and we begin to envision the dreaded ‘failure’ ahead. We start to walk the line of ‘I may not do as well as I know I want to, and how will I handle that’…which can be scary territory; but it’s realistic territory. No matter how much you win, no matter how many times you accomplish your goals, it is human nature to ‘not want to fail’ and to worry about failing; yet the reality is that every single one of us will fail to reach a goal more often than we will ever succeed. One cannot happen without the other”

I took that message to heart, and really decided to take my head out of my own ass, shut up those loud voices in my head and just do. It was a 5 mile race on the beginning of February – not my A race, and I had absolutely nothing to lose. I actually had a lot to gain regardless of the outcome, but make your head think that!  Kelly then went on to say this about her own race and she couldn’t be more right!

“The days leading into the event, I had quite a few conversations with my conscience. What I finally had to tell myself was, “Kelly, remove your head from your ass. Stop over thinking. Let go of your expectations. This is one of the most low key events you’ll do all year long. Enjoy it, race it, and finish it. Do your best, that’s it.”

So as much as I struggled with my own head all week leading up to the race, by race morning, my brain was shut off, and I was ready to follow my coach Jorge until I couldn’t. The gun finally went off, and all I had to worry about was the mini legs in front of me. I didn’t let them out of my sight, largely due to the fact that Jorge didn’t want to get too far away from me or else he could have dropped me at will. Mile 1 went by fast and we were right on pace – 6:29, I felt really good. (Or maybe it was the .5 mile that I felt good for). Mile 2 ticked off at 6:38 and I was starting to hurt, and my breathing was a bit labored. That’s not exactly the best sign when there are 3 miles left to run, but I actually didn’t think that then – I was successful at shutting that brain off! YES!  I kept trucking along and my legs were becoming heavier with each step. We crossed the 5K mat, and I really just wanted to stop right there and then – Mile 3 – 6:43. That is when the only words I have heard for the last 20 min were becoming louder and louder – Push it, Push it, PUSH IT! By mile 4 – I really just wanted to punch Jorge or tell him that maybe I have been pushing for the last 3+ miles so I didn’t really need to be reminded every 30 seconds to PUSH IT, but because a) I couldn’t catch him to actually punch him and b) I was breathing way too hard to say anything, I just had to keep on pushing.  Mile 4 was the hardest one. Combined that with a slight incline that felt like a mountain – 6:53 showed up on my watch – ouch! I am pretty sure this is where I mustered up all the energy I had to tell Jorge my legs hurt and I was done! His response – “Shut your legs up and push it” Ugh! Someone was in the world of hurt – I mean fun. The last mile – mile 5 was brutal. I can usually pick it up, and can find more energy to really bring it home in the last mile, but I had nothing. I couldn’t even bomb it on the slight downhill that mile 5 started off with. I had no spring left in my legs, and the finish line couldn’t come fast enough. My attempt for a final sprint to the finish line once we rounded the corner and could actually see it was quite pathetic as the legs really had nothing left. Mile 5 – 6:36. And with that I was D.O.N.E! 33:25 and 5.03 miles according to my garmin for a 6:39 avg. pace, 4th in my AG, and 10th overall female.

It wasn’t quite the 6:30s that my coach thought I could run, but I was reminded that I can indeed suffer a bit when running for a bit longer than just 2 or 3 min at a time, and although 2 days post race, my hamstrings feel like 2 gigantic bricks ready to pop out of my legs, I am ready for more! Funny how that works, isn’t it?  One race that was by no means perfect, but I am ready for more. More importantly I have a new level of confidence that the mega legs of mine have potential for some serious speed! As Kelly said in her blog:

“In short, this one is summed up by simply saying that failure to try will always result in failure; we will carry that with us… but the potential for success will always involve risk. Ultimately, living your life and trying new things is one big risk. So get out there and risk something! And don’t forget to have fun in the process.

So I am ready for more FUN while keeping my big picture in mind! Next up – Hyannis ½ marathon in 2.5 weeks, and I am already contemplating if I can keep track of how many times I will hear the words “PUSH IT” over the 13.1 miles. Any guesses?