Monday, March 18, 2013

I Just Can't Get Enough (Alternate Title: Wait, That Wasn't Supposed To Happen...A THIRD Time)

I'm not quite sure how to articulate my feelings on Sunday's Half Marathon PR in Sarasota. 

Mostly ecstatic. But also shocked. And confused. Very confused.

I didn't even have this race on my radar until about a week out, when I got an email that I had won a race entry. It was really awful timing -- I was feeling weak from a lingering sickness, my training schedule was basically non existent, and I had just raced 3 out of the last 5 weekends with two other half marathons and a 15K. 

Plus, I had already made plans to go out the night before to watch Eric Church and Kenny Chesney turn Tampa into a Redneck Riviera. 

Let's talk about REAL priorities, OK? 

After further debate I decided to go for it (I mean really, can I pass up a free race entry?!), but told myself I'd play it safe. If I wasn't feeling the love on Sunday morning, I'd treat it as a long run and just get my medal and my free beer and go home and not worry about my time. 

I ended up getting four total hours of sleep on Saturday night. I prepared myself for mental breakdown and total disaster as I lined up at the starting line. 

Prateek calls this "proactive pessimism". Always expect the worst. Most often it's used to describe the attitude of Philadelphia sports fans. Could also be used to describe the 2012 Auburn Tigers football season.

The Sarasota course is touted on the website as a course that was flat.

They forgot to mention the mile long BRIDGE that you had to run over TWICE.

The incline was an adrenaline killer and I was fatigued way earlier than I anticipated.
I saw Prateek at mile 6, and tried to paint on a smile for him even though I was completely exhausted.
I wasn't even halfway through the course yet and already kind of felt like hurling.

 This photo is completely fraudulent. I am getting better at spotting race photogs, though.

Every once in a while I'd look down at my watch to see how I was doing, and tried my hardest to keep my splits somewhat the same.

Total focus as I entered the finish line chute

When I saw the 1:37 on the ticker as I approached the finish line, I thought at first that for sure I had missed a turn somewhere or had cheated the system somehow. 

In the last month, I have now raced 3 half marathons (St Pete Rock N Roll and Tuscaloosa before this one) . With each one I've raced, I've PR'd by almost 4 minutes each time. 
Is this something I've had in me all along? Was this just a fluke? Maybe I just haven't been pushing myself hard enough? Or did I cross some sort of speed threshold and am reaping the benefits? Or maybe I'm just mastering the 13.1 distance after all these recent races? 

Whatever it is, I am blessed to have it and bow before the speed gods with thanks and praise. I see these numbers on paper and still can't believe they're mine.

I'm looking forward to digging into full marathon training mode and seeing what these legs can do with 26.2 miles! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Run Naked - It Adds Color To Your Cheeks

Running naked is extremely liberating.

And by naked, of course, I mean without a Garmin and without headphones and without any other electronic devices.

What did you THINK I meant?! 

I woke up this morning feeling very discombobulated. I had a total mismatched outfit on and looked like a hobo, my Garmin wasn't charged, my arm strap for my iPhone was breaking apart, I couldn't find my lucky necklace, the coffee I made tasted terrible, blah blah blah, bring out the baby violin and play me a ballad.

I'd like to hear Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancolique, please.

I watched the minutes tick by on the clock and got so fed up that I just ran out the door with nothing but my house key. 

About a half mile in I started to panic --  how far am I supposed to go today? how fast am I going right now? how do I know what time it is so I know when to head back? what if I pass a pack of people and they totally judge my outfit and think I'm a loser?  OMG what if someone attacks me and I don't have my phone to call anyone?! This could be it. My life is over.

The fear started to wear off, and for the next few minutes I started to notice things about running that I had never realized: 
  1. I sound like a Clydesdale when I run. Which is no surprise, because it's the same when I walk. I have a heavy heel strike and the word "tip toe" is not in my vocabulary.
  2. I breathe very awkwardly. People ask me for tips on breathing methods sometimes, and I never know what to say because I always just kind it.  If a fish out of water made a sound, as it were gasping for the sea, that is what I would sound like. Similar to dying, but a little more deep belly, and less wheezy. I was very thrown off by the sound of my own breath, and shiver at the thought of what the runners near me are hearing by the end of my races.
  3. Besides my deep belly panting and my heavy feet, there is not much else making noise at 5 o'clock in the morning along my route. It is quiet and eerily peaceful. Every once in a while I heard a Pelican dive bomb into the Bay or would hear some bugs chirping, or hear the wind rustle through the palm trees. The sound of silence was a refreshing change. 
Most importantly, this run reminded me of why I even starting running in the first place. 

Back then, it wasn't about if my outfit matched, or if I had cute shorts that made my butt look good, or what my current pace was, or what my splits were, or the particular order my songs were listed on my playlist based on the terrain/elevation gain I was likely experiencing at that very point in my run. (Yes, I do that. Sometimes.)

Running back then was just about how it made me feel. 
It was oversized T shirts and shorts that were two sizes too big and 5 year old gym shoes from Target. 

I first fell in love with running with no Garmin, no music, no clue or care in the world as to what my splits were, while looking like a hobo. 

I think I re-fell in love with it this morning.

Y'all..... take a chance and run naked sometime. It's unbelievable for the soul. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wait, That Wasn't Supposed To Happen...AGAIN!

Someday, the running gods will not look down upon me with adoration and bestow bountiful race day wishes.

Saturday March 2nd in Tuscaloosa, AL was not that day. 

Three weeks ago, I ran the St Pete Half Marathon and PR'd by 4 minutes. I signed up 10 days in advance and hadn't really been training.
That PR wasn't supposed to happen.

Last weekend, I registered for the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon at the very last possible minute.
And PR'd by another 3 minutes off of that.
That REALLY wasn't supposed to happen.

I've never raced back to back, 3 out of 4 weekends, doing two half marathons and a 15K. Would my legs even be strong enough to handle such a ridiculous race schedule? 
There was only one way to find out.

I wasn't certain what to expect out of Tuscaloosa. I was coming to town to visit my friend Jackie and her new baby (who is stubborn and has not been born yet!), and this half marathon just so happened to be on that same weekend. I hadn't been in the city in almost 10 years so I didn't even really remember what it looked like, much less the terrain and elevation.
 All I knew was that it was supposed to be in the low 30's with snow flurries on race morning.

Cue high-anxiety-packing mode. I took 3 different outfits with me to Alabama. 
Florida people just don't know how to dress for sub-50 temps.  

 Rachel was running it too, and it was so nice to have a familiar face out there!

Here we are rocking out our throw-away jackets before the race started
(Photo stolen from Rachel)

The first part of the course was very emotional. I don't know what that Forest Lakes area looked like before the tornado swept through, but I do know what destruction looks like because of seeing the aftermath in my hometown of Cullman (which got hit by an F4 tornado that same day, April 27th 2011). The empty lots, the driveways that lead to nowhere, the mailboxes with no homes behind them, the trees that are stripped of branches but still standing tall like leafless twigs - I recognized it all and felt a huge wave of sorrow. I was running through hallowed ground, where people lost everything including their lives, and I almost flat out cried on the course.

Seeing the empty lots, next to new houses being built, next to houses that were spared, it struck a cord in my soul. 

Course map superimposed onto tornado damage path

The course may as well have been a mini version of San Francisco's elevation chart. 
Hills, hills, hills. Rolling ones. Up, down. Up, down. Just when you think you get some recovery...NOPE! There's another hill waiting for you.

By around the 7th mile I already felt out of steam. I struggled mentally more than I can remember struggling in any race ever, marathons included. I knew I went out fast, and wanted to keep it up, but could feel the fatigue coming over me like a heavy blanket.

I was also all by myself (cue sad music)--- since I've been running, I don't remember ever being alone during a race. There were no strangers to pace with, or draft, or focus on keeping up with to push me a little harder, so the drive to keep going completely fell on my own strength and focus. 

This is where my loner tendencies kinda came in handy, since I almost always run by myself during training. 
 These extremely photogenic race shots sum up my feelings of the final 6 miles as a whole.

I was overcome with joy to see that finish line. And even happier to see the time on my Garmin. 

Official Race Results: 
1:41:08 (PR)
66th overall 
2nd in age group 

After all that struggle, I ended up with a 3 minute and 15 second PR.

I made my way to the finish area to try and catch Rachel as she crossed, and I almost missed her because she was so speedy and crushed her goal with a new 2:02 PR! 

Finish line photo op!

Although Jackie's baby was due THAT DAY, she still came out and supported me at the finish line.

 2nd in my age group meant I got an award.
Cash money! 
Thank you Delane for letting me steal your jacket when my lips turned blue 

So then I was doing some thinking.

The spread on a half marathon and full marathon pace is around 30-40 seconds-ish, right?
Let's theoretically say 30 for this particular demonstration.

If I add 30 seconds to my 7:43 half marathon pace, that is an 8:13 full marathon pace.

(Yay, I can do math.)

Do y'all realize what an 8:12 marathon pace would get me? Just one second faster per mile than that?


That is, theoretically of course.

Forget the 3:40's, I'm going for a time in the 3:30's this year. You heard it here first, friends.

Now I just have to find a good course.....