Thoughts on RnRChi

Yesterday didn’t go the way I envisioned it.

First bonk. I resigned to just getting to the finish line from mile 8 on. 5+ miles is a long way to go just knowing that it wasn’t your day and you didn’t meet your goal. It wasn’t so much the physical work to get to the finish line, it was the mental beating I gave myself as I ran. I stopped looking at my watch or caring about my mile splits. They didn’t matter anyway.

I knew pretty early on that 1:32:xx was an aggressive goal in those conditions. The forecast fluctuated a lot in the days leading up to the race but I hoped that the clouds would stick around and provide some kind of relief in the heat and humidity. I thought it was going to be 68 and cloudy (although still humid) but when I woke up at 4:15 AM, it was already 74 degrees outside.

By mile 4 I looked like I had jumped in the lake. I wasn’t dehydrated, but I was overheating. Each time I poured water over my head, I was surprised how cold it felt.

When I saw Tim and Jeff at mile 6, I told them “it’s too hot, guys”. Side-5s were appreciated but they seemed so silly considering I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Rock 'n Roll Chicago 2013

Thanks for capturing a strong moment, Britt! (near mile 7?) 
 

I know that 1:40:xx is not indicative of my ability. I’m stronger that that. After a pity-fest and too many tears when I went home yesterday, I forced myself to spend time with the gang and grab a few beers with Kristy, who ran like a BEAST with a 1:24 PR and 9th female finish overall (!!!!). The running community never fails to provide a dose of reality and positive thoughts. Coach told me to “let disappointment turn into resolve and move forward”.

I’m good at the resolve part. I proved that to myself after the Chi Women’s 5k and the redemption PR at Bastille Day.

The weather conditions were out of control but I’m in control of my own thoughts.

I’m going to try not to linger on disappointment for too long and look forward to the rest of the training cycle. There’s too much progress already in this cycle to let this one race consume me. Lately it’s a matter of getting back to my mental game than lack of physical toughness. I used to let my mind wander more. I spent a lot of time just dreaming about the “what ifs”. And it always led to results. Instead of finding reasons why something won’t happen, I need to focus on reasons why it will. I want to be able to think “how cool would that be if ______?!” again.

I’m going to pick up this book and start dreaming a little bit more.

I’ll have more fun that way.

-J

Advertisements

Bastille Day 5k + Race Redemption

Spoiler alert! : I raced another 5k. And this time I had fun and ran fast. 🙂

I signed up for the Bastille Day 5k about two months ago. I didn’t have any intention of racing. I was looking forward to running it for fun with the Man as part of his training for his first half marathon. (eeek!) I told Coach about it when I signed up and we agreed that it would just be an easy day of running in order to focus on racing hard at the Rock ‘n Roll half next weekend.

On Monday I was comfortable with just running the 5k for fun.

On Tuesday I texted Coach to ask if I could run 2 miles of the 5k up tempo.

On Wednesday I texted him and told him I wanted to race it.

On Thursday I RACED.

My legs were not fresh. On Tuesday, I ran mile repeats that felt easier than they ever have before, at a pace faster than I ran them last cycle. The speed is coming back to my legs!

Unlike the Chicago Women’s 5k, I was excited and anxious to race this time around. I was nervous in a good way. I knew I was going to PR–it was just that kind of night. At the Chi Women’s 5k I was lethargic, apathetic, and generally “meh” about the whole idea of racing. I wasn’t nervous about racing because I just didn’t want to be there. It felt good to turn that attitude around and get to the start line with confidence.

I talked with Britt and Annabelle before we started. I knew I’d be chasing these speedy ladies for the next +/- 20 minutes 🙂 Hillary, Chanthana, and I ran a 2 mi warm-up and arrived at the start line about 2 seconds before their 8k started. Derp!

I don’t really have many thoughts on the race because I literally just RAN and tried not to over-think things.

Splits:

6:25

6:33

6:20

00:44

What I Did Differently:

  • wrote in my moment journal the night before & gave myself a pep talk
  • ran with my iPod – tunes tunes tunes!
  • focused on running in the moment with *km splits instead of mile splits
  • ran a longer warm-up – 2 miles rather than 1 mile
*Can’t seem to view km splits on my watch or in Garmin Connect now. Would like to know them!

Bastille Day 5k PR

New, 33 second PR 20:05

The course felt lucky because my previous PR was on the same course last year.

A nice little confidence boost heading into the Rock ‘n Roll Half, I’d say!

Bastille Day 5k 2013 Results

I was chasing those speedy girls the entire time.

…Notice something? I’m not listed in the race results. I would have placed 6th female finisher overall and 2nd place in my AG if my chip time had been recorded. I sent an email to the race director on Friday along with my Garmin data to ask them if I can be entered into the results. Hoping they do and I can “officially” claim the PR.

2013-07-11 20.16.02

PR TWINSIESSSSSSS! Heh.

Quad selfies

Taking selfies to a whole new level, one Michelob Ultra at a time.

Screenshot_7_14_13_4_11_PM

-J

Chicago Women’s 5k: Race Recap

This past weekend was all about running. Saturday? Beer run. Yep, beer run. 4 bars, 3 miles, and just a few beers and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

2nd Annual Chicago Beer Run

After more than a few attempts, Hillary and I (somewhat) nailed it.

Sunday? Chicago Women’s 5k.

On Saturday night as I prepared my race outfit and packed my bag (unnecessary for a 5k, I know), I felt tired but anxious. Every 15 minutes, I kept telling myself that I’d go to bed “in 15 minutes”. I was a bit tired from runnin’ around most of the day and a horrible night of sleep on Friday, but didn’t feel like laying down.

I went to bed at 10:30 and all of a sudden, my 4:55 AM alarm went off. Up and at ’em. I ate my oatmeal, sipped my coffee, and went downtown. (I was surprised that I was riding the train with several women who were wearing bibs for the half, which started 20 minutes before the 5k. There’s no way they made it to the start line on time!)  Hillary and I planned to meet around 6:15 AM, which meant we’d have just enough time for a quick warm-up before heading to the start line.

My goal was to start off at 6:30 min/mile pace and see if I could go a bit faster each mile.

Chi Women's 5k Ali Engin Photo 2

Photo Credit Ali Engin Photography

The start wasn’t crowded because it seemed like a relatively small field (not sure how many 5k finishers there were). By a quarter mile in, I was running by myself with girls 10 yards ahead and behind me. The tunnel of heat on lower Wacker was an unwelcome surprise but I felt like my legs were moving well. I had flashbacks of the Chicago Marathon and the lines of dudes peeing in the tunnel, which is something I’d rather not be reminded of (heh…).

Mile 1: 6:40 and feeling good.

We made a right turn heading south and I still felt like I had it together. Wasn’t sure yet whether or not I’d gone out too fast or whether or not I could trust my watch after the tunnel section. The course was clear and running south on Lakeshore felt smooth, but my legs were really starting to feel it. It didn’t help that the sun decided to pop out and say ‘hello’.

Mile 2: 6:29 and struggling.

Around Mile 2.4 I stopped to walk for 10 seconds. Yeah, walk. I was instantly disappointed in myself. Looking back on it, I’m not even sure why I slowed. I know I was tired and the humidity wasn’t helping. My legs felt like they were wading through sand even though I was still on pace for a PR. If I had just kept my legs moving I would have been fine. It was a mental rather than a physical decision to stop. My body was tired, sure, but it was my head & heart that allowed me to stop in the first place. Something to work on.

The downhill section heading into the Roosevelt bridge underpass at Mile 2.7 was a nice push. And then I quickly realized that the next 300-400 m would be uphill to make the final right turn to the finish. I pushed myself up the hill. Honestly, I was surprised that I had any kind of finishing kick. The previous half mile felt like a total slog and I didn’t think I’d have it in me.

Mile 3: 7:02 and looking for that finish line.

2013-06-23 07.47.54

My official finish time was 20:41, just 3 seconds from a PR (2012 Bastille Day 5k 20:38 in similar conditions). 

 Chi Women's 5k 2013 Results

I can’t believe that I finished 7th. I was disappointed but I know that a sub-20 5k finish is in me under better race conditions. 75% humidity is no friend of mine. I’m especially happy that I was able to come so close to a PR this early in this training cycle. (I told Coach I’d rather run a marathon than a 5k any day, but I know it’s only a matter of time before I come around to a speedier short distance race.)

Chi Women's 5k 2013 Finish Photo

Photo Credit: Ali Engin Photography

I’m usually not a “mantra” kind of person. I’m pretty sure I’ve never used one intentionally, but Friday night changed that. Andrew WK tweeted this and I quickly realized it would be perfect motivation during a race to keep going:

2013-06-21 22.30.40

(I was shocked that Andrew WK actually responded.)  So, I now have two mantras to choose from: “Push yourself past yourself” or “PARTY HARD AND RUN HARD, JENNY!”. I haven’t decided yet which one I like more but I know I’ll be using them both at some point. 🙂

Lessons to remember:

  • Internalize a mantra and don’t try to find excuses to quit.
  • Focus on keeping the legs moving as opposed to how hot you think it is. (It will all be over soon.)
  • Try to get that finishing kick started before the last quarter mile.
  • Wear an iPod if ya want to, ya dummy! A steady tempo would have been nice to have!
  • Always take advantage of free ice cream from an ice cream truck.

2013-06-23 07.52.04

Chi Women's 5k 2013 Chi Women's 5k 2013 Chi Women's 5k 2013

– J

Race Recap: Chi Town Half 2013

130324 Chi Town Half Results

BOOM! 

Finally made it past the 1:36:00 barrier that I’ve been fighting for over a year!

1:36:08 Carmel 2012 (*previous PR)

1:36:16 Bayshore 2012

1:36:21 Batavia 2012

Going into the race, I knew that the goal was to avoid racing it all out. I have three weeks until Boston and putting all of my energy into this half wasn’t the point. Just a good fitness test to see where I’m at before my goal race. I think the half is a fun distance to race (much more so than the 10k!). I was lazy Friday night and spent most of Saturday relaxing. Plus, I got a race day mani & pedi— bright red nails make you run faster, right?! They must because they seemed to work for me today. Thumbs up, nails. I wasn’t really nervous about racing. But the jitters started right when I woke up this morning when I realized it was race morning (Somehow it sneaked up on me? Not sure how that’s possible.)

Photo Mar 23, 7 20 41 PM (1)

Heh…

I was able to get a solid 7 hours of sleep last night and felt refreshed when I woke up. Sipped my coffee, ate my granola, and drove over to the start. I assumed that the Nature Museum off of Fullerton would be open for gear check and to stay warm before and after the race (like it was for the Wacky 10k and the Bastille Day 5k) but I guess the Chi Town Half doesn’t offer that. I’m glad I overdressed with a hoodie and a puffy winter coat to stay warm because it was really cold.

Met up with Britt, Xaarlin, and Hillary for a quick warm-up before heading to the start line. I was hoping to get an easy 2 miles in but we were short on time and ran 1.6 miles, just enough to loosen up.

Dude, the course? MUCH crazier than it looks on paper—-> chi_town_half_map. Those random looptiloops, curly-qs, turns, and switchbacks were more frequent than I thought they would be for some reason. I felt like once I got into a rhythm there would be a random ‘hill’, bridge, or turn that I wasn’t prepared for. Plus, the signage would pretty minimal. The 10k started at the same time and I only saw two different signs that clearly marked the two courses—all the rest were just arrows, but didn’t mark which race the turn was for. I didn’t know this until I finished but apparently the race director had to STOP the 10k runners and redirect them, which made the the 10k course a 5-mile race. I’d be really mad if I had been running the 10k today or if they had messed up the half course. Xaarlin made a good point later on when she said that the people at the back of the 10k pack were probably fine because the director fixed it before they reached that point of the course.

The Miles:

I started out right on pace. Goal was to run Mile 1 in 7:15 and then stay consistent between 7:00-7:10 for the remainder of the race. This is a different strategy for me. In almost all of my previous half marathons, I start out pretty steady and then gradually speed up each mile through the finish. It was more mentally tough than anything else to run the same pace for 12+ miles (felt a lot like a long tempo run).

I knew I went out too fast by the time I got to Mile 4. I didn’t taper for the race and I knew I needed to stay conservative in the first few miles so that the last half of the race would be relatively comfortable. Couldn’t slow myself down enough to really take advantage of that strategy haha.

Took water at Mile 4.5. Dry throat. Ahhh much better.

At this point, I was deciding between staying conservative or chasing these 3 speedy girls. We likely all had the same goal because we ran together for a large portion of the course (shifted a bit with water stops and surges). I tried to hang with them as much as I could but it was tough to find that rhythm with all of the turns. It was fun to work together, though.

Took Gatorade (by accident!) at Mile 6.5. Gross. Gatorade.

Ok, halfway. Just gotta keep the legs moving and use the wind to your advantage once you reach the turnaround. The girls were still ahead and I hoped I’d catch 1-2 or two of them by the end.

Took a Gu at Mile 8.5.  i.e. way too late to really make a difference.

Totally forgot to take my Gu and I was nervous that the few sips of Gatorade I took at Mile 6.5 would make me stomach hurt, combined with the Gu. Luckily that wasn’t a problem but I had to wait 1.5 miles for the next water stop.

Had to wait until Mile 10 for the next water station. Blech.

The toughest miles of the entire race were Miles 7-10 when the headwind really picked up. The wind was fairly consistent through the race, but the ENE direction made a big difference on the north sections of the course. The wind would be fine for a second and then we’d come around a bend or up a small hill and the wind would hit us. Just tried to keep my legs moving and avoid looking at the time on my watch. I knew that if I just kept my legs moving I’d PR—just didn’t know how much I’d be able to push at the end.

Once we turned back south at Mile 9, I knew it would be a bit easier. And it seemed to be. Mentally it’s so much easier to know that you have 4 miles straight to the finish, with fewer turns. I fell into pace with this one dude (who was holding his phone in his hand. how do people do that??) at Mile 11 and kept reminding myself I only had 2 miles to the finish. One of the girls that I had been chasing for the last half of the race had fallen back. I knew she was hurting, so I gave her a high-5 and told her she could do it. (Cheeseball moment: I love doing this towards the finish in races. You know you’re both struggling. You both need a pick-me-up. Helps both of you out and you know you aren’t in it alone.) She kept up with me for about a mile and fell back a bit more. Hurumph. Back by my lonesome.

Mile 12 . 1 mile to go. I can do it.

130324 Chi Town Half Splits

I had more of a finishing kick than I thought I would have! I felt like I was running a 7:00 min/mile pace in the finishing chute haha! When I crossed the finish line, the time read 1:33:58 and I knew that I had just PR’d by about 2 minutes. What the hell?! Struggling through my previous 3 half marathons with a consistent 1:36 was tough. At the Batavia Half last fall, I wondered why I couldn’t just break 1:36 and call it a day. I guess that’s what a little patience and hard work can do. My 10th half marathon (for real. When did that happen?!) and I’ve only got speedier times ahead of me. That feels amazing.

The girl that I had given the High-5 came up to me at the finish and said “thanks for the encouragement”. I told her I’d been chasing her the entire way and she helped me a lot. Then I asked her if she ran a PR…..and she said it was her FIRST HALF! I may or may not have let an expletive or two fly from my mouth when she said that. Amazing.

Photo Mar 24, 10 56 14 AM (1)

This week was the first week I’ve run 6 days in a really long time. I’m so happy that I was able to run a PR on legs that definitely were not fresh. Now I’m definitely looking forward to Boston (like I wasn’t before?). It’s so nice to know that my hard work is paying off & I can keep challenging myself. I guess I’m going to have to set my sights on an even speedier half come fall? 🙂 We shall see!

Photo Mar 24, 12 07 11 PM

We recovered from the race with boozy milkshakes. I’m thinking this is a new tradition for races in Lincoln Park!

Hillary, Britt, Xaarlin, Me, & Chanthana (chief cowbell-er)

Photo Mar 24, 11 09 07 AM (1)

White Russian Boozy Milkshake + several cups of coffee. = EXTREME RECOVERY

(Not to mention the challah french toast)

-J

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-39686122-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘wewanderandponder.com’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

Boston Marathon 2013 Training: Week 8 of 14 & 10k Race Recap

BM2013 Week 8 Training

This week really was Snot Central. I’m feeling pretty mopey about it right now but that’s nothing that a big mug of coffee and some rungry therapy can’t take care of easily this afternoon. Monday through Thursday was pretty miserable in terms of how I felt. I don’t get sick often but I tend to be a big baby when I do. A full work schedule was tough and focusing on my computer screen was probably the toughest challenge of the week.

On the other hand, I think it was actually pretty lucky that I was sick this week because I had easy runs on the schedule to prepare for Sunday’s 10k Race. Dealing with a head cold during a stepback week is something I can handle. I just wish I didn’t have to. But again, as Coach says, “better this week than the week of Boston”. He speaks the truth.

This week I ran just over 34 miles, which is the lowest I’ve run all cycle but not far off from the mileage Coach scheduled for me.

I ran 34 miles this week + 3 core routines + 1 strength routine:

Monday: 6 miles at 8:39 pace. This was a struggle especially because the cold hit me on Sunday.

Tuesday: unplanned rest

Wednesday: Easy progressive 7 miles at 8:17 average pace. Started at 8:27 and finished at 8:00. Felt good to sweat out the cold and breathing didn’t seem to be much of an issue that day.  (+ core and foam drills)

Thursday: 8 miles, 8:23 average pace. Actually felt really good today. I woke up feeling like a human again and didn’t have nearly as much nasal congestion as I did any of the other days this week. (+ core routine)

Friday: Easy 5, 8:16 average pace.  (+ core routine)

Saturday: rest

Sunday: WACKY 10K Race. 43:xx unofficial time (official results aren’t posted yet. derp!) 2 mile warm-up was actually nice and easy. I didn’t have much trouble breathing and it was so nice to run in the sunshine.

For my first 10k race, I’d say I did pretty well but this didn’t go as planned. The plan was to start at 6:40-6:50 and gradually get faster (or adjust to deal with conditions). I realized during my warm-up that it likely wouldn’t happen because the first (and last) 3/4 mile was a complete SHEET of ice (not kidding). This portion runs on the inner path and is made of packed sand—so they couldn’t plow and I’m sure salting really didn’t do much because the ice had accumulated throughout this week’s crazy weather.People were slipping and sliding all over the place at the start and I was in “no man’s land” from mile 1.5 to the finish.

My legs felt fresh but I had a lot of trouble breathing. The lingering chest congestion from my head cold this past week made it really difficult. Anything under 42:00 was ambitious, when you consider how I was feeling and the course conditions. I think I’ve only stopped to walk during one race before (shameful) but today I had to stop several times to take care of mucus. Blech. Still, a good workout–just a long tempo workout in the books. It was a perfect day for a race with sunny skies and light wind. I only wore two long sleeve layers and skipped wearing an outer shell jacket.. –Just wasn’t in the cards today. A bloody mary and huge breakfast burrito afterward made me feel better.

You can’t really tell how icy the finish was in the video but it might give you an idea. Surprised my form looks so good considering how I was feeling. I think I was just angry at the conditions by that point haha.

10k Race Chicago Finish

I’m going to take this week in stride (heh…get it?) and write it off as a recovery week. All of my runs were easy runs just as planned even if I didn’t hit the exact mileage. I know it was worth the extra rest and recovery so I can dominate the next 6 weeks.

OK UPDATE. I NEED TO QUIT MY WHINING. I’ve never finished top 10 overall or top 10 female at any race. Official race results:

Wacky 10k 2013 Results

Highlights o’ the Week

  • Added to my running playlist: Breezeblocks by Alt-J (I highly recommend this entire album. I listen to it a lot when I’m relaxing at home.) 
  • The Man is back on a normal work schedule now, which means he’s not working nights again for a long time! HUGE piece of happiness this week.
  • I found my favorite chocolate milk at Whole Foods. Trader’s Point Creamery is from my hometown; it was nice to find a little slice of home here in Chicago especially after being sick this week.
  • I have a new favorite pair of running tights. I rarely wear Zoot gear but The Clymb had a great deal two weeks ago and I jumped on it. Ladies, if you’re looking for a non-bulky tight that will keep you super warm, give these a try: Zoot THERMOMegaHeat Tights. They are so comfy that I spent the evening lounging around in them when they arrived.

Pictures o’ the Week

2013-02-27 20.01.54

This is the look the pup gives me when I don’t pet her enough. Drama queen!

2013-03-02 17.33.56

This sunset, brought to you by the Whole Foods parking lot. Transported me back to the summer on our rooftop

2013-03-02 19.33.00

I present to you this weekend’s race shirt. I mean, the race is called the WACKY 10K—the shirt is appropriately designed, don’t you think?

I can only imagine the looks I’ll get on the lakefront or at the gym.

2013-03-03 08.19.58

Late start times during the winter is something I could get used to. Ahhh coffeeeee!

What do you do to snap yourself out of a funk? What’s your best cold remedy?

– J

2012 Twin Cities Marathon: Race Recap & Shiny New PR

Usually, I don’t have a lot of words to describe my race experiences. But I think the Twin Cities marathon is an exception because I feel like I was incredibly aware of how my body was feeling and the thoughts that were running through my own head. I’ve been thinking about ‘what happened’ since 11:18 AM last Sunday morning when I crossed that finish line with my fists in the air and tears in my eyes. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I ran a 3:17:47 marathon on Sunday, which was a 15+ minute PR from my Chicago Marathon 2011 time of 3:32:53. Twin Cities was my second marathon and I know that my ability to run the distance is only going to develop more in the coming years. It’s mindblowing to think about the miles I’ve run and what my body was able to do on Sunday morning.

The Prep: Race Week

To say that I had the most ideal prep in body & mind for the marathon would be a lie. I spent the early part of the week resting as much as possible in advance of a business trip to San Francisco on Thursday and Friday. I slept 11 glorious hours on Monday night and my body thanked me, but each consecutive night consisted of at least an hour less sleep leading up to Race Day. A Friday afternoon flight back to Chicago meant that I would arrive home around 9 pm before my flight to Minneapolis the following morning at 9:30 AM. Unfortunately, my master plan of arriving one night and departing the next with plenty of sleep in between trips didn’t work out as I’d hoped. Two things happened. One, my flight from San Francisco was delayed by 2 hours, which meant that I didn’t get to bed until 12:30 on Friday night. And second, my flight to Minneapolis was changed by the airline from 9:30 AM up to 7:45 AM. Because of both of these things, I slept for just under 5 hours on Friday night, which arguably is the most crucial night for pre-marathon rest.

I was nervous and tired and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything to change my schedule or to squeeze in a few more hours of sleep.

Within 8 hours, I had landed at O’Hare, arrived home, unpacked, packed, ate a huge bowl of pasta, slept, and made the commute back to the airport for yet another flight. And before I knew it, I was in Minneapolis. The pre-race nerves and anxiety suddenly hit when the wheels touched the runway.

So much had happened in the previous weeks, days, and even hours, that I didn’t even have the time to get nervous, much less think about the marathon. In fact, it wasn’t until the Wednesday of the same week that I even thought about “strategy”, pacing, hydration, nutrition or otherwise.

After devouring some hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, toast, and a liter of water at the airport while I waited for The Man to land (yes, we took separate flights), we went straight to the expo to pick up my bib & chip. I was determined to get in and out of that expo as fast as I possibly could. I’m not a huge fan of expos, mostly because I don’t need to spend time sampling random energy drinks, gus, or performance products that I know I won’t buy or use. I was there long enough to meet up with Brady, grab some Gus, and decide that I didn’t want to buy anything (thank goodness).

The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to close the curtains and black out the entire room. I texted Coach earlier that day and asked him if he had time for a pep talk. He called me right as I laid down to rest. I was in this weird physical and mental state that involved exhaustion, apathy, anxiety, and nervous energy.

All week, I wrestled with an internal debate that went something like, “Wow, why am I so calm? I’m not even nervous. …Wait, that’s weird. I should be nervous about my second marathon! Am I not nervous because I doubt myself? Because deep down I know that I can’t run under a 3:20, or 3:18 for that matter?!” All week, I played this game with myself and questioned whether or not my calmness was a symptom of extreme confidence or incredible self-doubt. [I feel like a lot of runners probably know what I’m talking about. But Lora put this feeling into words in a way that I simply cannot in one of her latest blog posts. She called it the chicken vs. egg debate between confidence and self-doubt.]

But Coach laid all of these thoughts to rest with his pep talk. He’s the king of analogies (most of them corny as hell) and he probably gave me four or five that made me feel comfortable in my preparation. He also reminded me that, this past March, I returned from a business trip to Madrid just ten hours prior to Rock ‘n Roll DC and managed to run a 5+ minute PR. I was, in fact, prepared for a challenging travel schedule coupled with an “A” race weekend.  It was old territory for me and I needed to remind myself of that experience. I was in Minneapolis, I had sufficient time to rest, and the hard work had already been done. All I had to do was allow myself to soak up the experience (or so I kept telling myself!).

So, I slept. From 12:30-5:00 PM on Saturday, I put my legs up and closed my eyes. I think I managed to get about 2 hours sleep but I felt like myself once I woke up and showered to get ready for dinner with the crew. There were 8 of us running Twin Cities and I was excited to enjoy a good dinner (and one good beer!) and some fun conversation before calling it a night.

Race Morning

5:30 AM alarm set. I slept SO well the night before the race—it was probably the deepest sleep I’d had in over a week and my body soaked it all up. I wake up, throw everything into my gear check bag, drink my coffee, eat my oatmeal, bundle up, and head over to the Metrodome where the runners were free to relax and prepare before heading to the corrals at the Start. It was so nice to see friends and laugh to calm my nerves before heading to the start corrals. I felt like my heart was pounding fast and I kept sighing to slow my breathing. I was excited and HAPPY about getting to the start line. We dropped our gear backs and headed into the coldI. It was something like 30 degrees when we started, so I wore a few light layers. I had a Saucony singlet on with Nike armwarmers, topped with a super light long sleeve throwaway shirt, and a cheap windbreaker jacket from a previous race. I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold, but I knew I’d warm up quick and I’d be able to take off the jacket and the throwaway shirt pretty quickly. I had a pair of cheap gloves that I’d wear the entire race.

Race Strategy

Let me just preface this section by saying that I can be pretty technical when it comes to pacing, fueling, and hydration strategy. I like to have a firm plan going into any race, but I have to know it’s achievable. Throughout this past training cycle, Coach determined a conservative and stretch time goal, but we never talked about it in our phone conversations leading up to the race. Because Twin Cities was only my 2nd marathon, I still feel like I’m in ‘fresh territory’ and my body will continue to surprise me until I reach times that are extremely competitive (and maybe even then?). Once I ran my 10 x 800s at an average pace of 3:13 (while my goal was 3:18 for each repeat), I knew that I was in a good spot and I began to become comfortable with 3 hrs, 18 minutes as a time that I could fully commit to. 

….But then I sat down to actually write out my pace strategy. I’d begin with a conservative 8:00-7:50 pace in the first few miles. I’d get comfortable and remain patient. I’d let those people pass me because I’d be back to catch them in a matter of miles. Runners could rush past me in their early-mile excitement because I’d be doing the same thing at miles 22-26. But as I kept entering paces and recalculating, the paces seemed unreal. Could I really run a 7:00 min/mile that late in the race?! Would my legs be able to carry me that far, that fast? I didn’t give myself any excuse to recalculate the numbers again, I printed the spreadsheet, and took off for my business trip to San Francisco.

I carried the spreadsheet with me, but didn’t take one look at it until Saturday when I arrived in Minneapolis.

I split the race into sections just as I did at Chicago last year. I’ve become really comfortable with a negative split racing plan over the past year and I always seem to find that kick at the end. Every race that I’ve achieved a PR has been because I’ve been able to negative split by at least 1-2 minutes. Mentally, it’s easier for me to remain patient in the first miles knowing that I will be running much faster paces later on.

I made sure I had 4 fields on my Garmin home screen: time, distance, lap pace, and average pace. I printed my pace band and ‘laminated’ it with packaging tape before wrapping it around my wrist right next to my Garmin (see? pretty technical). I kept my eye on my splits at each mile marker and let the miles come to me.

The Race

After saying bye to Matt and Chanthana in our corral, Mile 1-3 flew by, as they always seem to in a distance race. I looked down at my Garmin and realized I was running a lot faster than I should have been (surprise surprise…). I kept telling myself that I’d be back to get those people later and that my patience would pay off in time. I was relaxed and listening to my music, although I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which songs were pumping through those headphones.

Near mile 4, the course runs alongside several small lakes and the roads narrow. I remember thinking that it was more congested than I anticipated but just tried to stay steady. At mile 5 I took my first Gu and grabbed a few sips of water. At that point, I couldn’t believe that we were already 5 miles in. (I planned to take a Gu every 5 miles I had in every one of my long runs and thought “wow, only 3 or 4 more Gus to go!” It’s always helpful for me to split the race up into sections, not only physically but mentally).

Around Mile 9, I realized that I’d likely have to make a pit stop in order to get to the finish line without peeing myself. And this marks the beginning of the section about peeing your pants and the crazy thoughts that can go through a runner’s head. I’m no stranger to peeing my pants. I did it during the Chicago Marathon, my first marathon, last year. My decision to say ‘yes’ to my body doing something that I likely hadn’t done since I wet the bed at age 3 came out of pure determination that day. I HAD to get to the finish line in under 3:35 and I didn’t care what I had to do to make that happen.

But at Twin Cities? Let’s put this decision-making process in perspective. It was THIRTY DEGREES at the start line. There were periods of light wind. And I was wearing booty shorts. So, let’s be serious. Those last 14 miles would have been pure cold torture if I had decided to pee my pants.

Next stop: an empty port-o-potty around Mile 12-13. I can safely say that the pit stop took all of something like 14 seconds because I have never been more determined to pee faster that I did on Sunday (and my splits help prove it too!).

After jostling through the first 11 miles through rolling hills and winding roads, I was so happy when things started to open up at Mile 13. I didn’t feel like I had to move around anyone and the crowd had thinned out so that I could just run my own race and not worry about the possibility of tripping over someone. (I had taken off my windbreaker layer at Mile 10 after the sun peaked out). At this point, I felt amazing. I felt like my legs wanted to go faster than my pace band told me to. I was supposed to be running 7:35s, but my watch consistently rattled off 7:2x miles. I tried to slow myself down and remain patient. But something clicked near Mile 15. I realized that I only had ~10 miles to go. TEN MILES!? “I can totally do that!”. And that’s right when I saw the best spectator sign of the entire race. It read: PAUL RYAN ALREADY FINISHED. It made me and the other runners around all laugh. I agreed with the woman next to me that said, “that is the best sign…by far!”. I was so happy to BE so happy at this point in the race. My legs weren’t giving me much grief besides a slight niggle in my left calf (which is the opposite of the one that’s bothered me a bit this past training cycle, oddly enough). I felt like the miles were going by quickly and I was able to pass more people the closer I came to the finish line.

I continued to take my Gus at 5-mile intervals and sipped on water at stations that weren’t overly crowded. I think I stopped at 5 water stations during the entire marathon and each time I only took a few sips. I had hydrated nonstop since the previous Wednesday and felt comfortable with what I’d taken in. The water I sipped on made the dry throat (from the coldish air) disappear.

I don’t really remember Miles 15-19, to be honest. It’s like someone came in and erased them from my brain. I know they happened, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about that run by the river until I reached the bridge at Mile 19, when I finally shed the final throwaway shirt (I told you I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold!). Once you cross this last bridge, it’s a straight shot into St. Paul and the finish line. Those last 6 miles are all mental and I told myself that there’s no way I’d stop or slow down. At worst, I’d continue running a 7:2x pace. At best, I’d gradually increase the pace until the last mile when I’d give it everything I had.

I had planned to take my last Gu at Mile 23, but my stomach was on the verge of giving me problems so I opted to skip it. At Mile 22, I knew I had to conquer the biggest incline of the entire race. It’s not actually that steep (you only climb 175 within about 1.5 miles) but it seems much bigger than that so late in the race. This was the first time that I saw people start to walk. I knew that I wouldn’t be walking. All I had to do was keep my legs moving and stay in my own head. I was running step-by-step with this one dude for about a mile at that point when I gave him a high five. It’s so much easier for me to maintain a steady pace when I’ve been doing it with someone at my side (mind you, that’s the only time I actually like to run with people!) and I think it gives the other person a boost too.

I remember looking down at my Garmin at Mile 24-25 and seeing 6:58 flash as the lap pace. I was right on target (or faster) and all I had to do was hold on to it through the finish. Brady, who lives in Minneapolis, had given me a ride from the expo to my hotel on Saturday and told me she’d be standing at the cathedral just 400 m from the finish line. I reached the cathedral and looked for her (no luck!) before heading into the final downhill section. I felt like I was Roadrunner and I couldn’t stop my legs. The downhill actually hurt my knees and ankles and I felt like I had to make me legs move faster than they actually could. I clenched my fists as I crossed the finish line nd began to cry immediately. My pace when I finished was 6:27….and I looked at my watch. All 4 numbers were good.

LET THE FREAKIN’ WATERWORKS BEGIN! I was speechless. I put my hands on my knees, tried to breathe through the tears, and…..I didn’t know what to do with myself. The finish line had been pulling me toward it the entire race. There wasn’t ONE mile when I felt like I couldn’t achieve a 3:18 time. It was a mixture of the weather, the months of hard work, the pre-race meals, and the extreme determination and grit to run the paces listed on my wrist that allowed me to run at 15 minute personal record on Sunday. Once I reached the start line that morning, there was NO WAY it wasn’t going to happen. I had worked too hard to not see sub-3:18 on my Garmin.

 

I passed 600 people from the 5k mark to the finish. My patience in the first 3 miles really paid off. I literally remained steady between miles 4 and 20 (that’s just insane!!!) And then? Then it was GO TIME! I just had to run straight to St. Paul and have a volunteer put that medal around my neck.

 

There were only a few miles that I didn’t run at pace or faster according to my pace strategy. Mile 7 was off by two seconds, I made a pit-stop at Mile 13, and Miles 22-23 were only off by a few seconds following the ‘big hill’. I don’t think I could have run a better race.

It’s hard to think back to last Sunday and not be happy. I’ve been reliving the moment all week through the finish line videos and the few photos Brightroom was able to capture of me.

 

All smiles and tears at this point.

Well….that’s HAWT. #not (200 m from the finish line)

 So fresh!

Twin Cities was my 2nd marathon. I think I’ve learned a lot about racing in the past two years. And so far, my body hasn’t given up on me. Most importantly, I think my mental strength always seems to give me that boost on race day, whether or not it’s there for me in the months leading up to a race. Next up is Boston 2013 and I’m already looking forward to it. I’ll remember my Twin Cities finish line moment when I’m training in the bitter Chicago cold. The hard work is always worth it when you reach that finish line (and drink a post-race beer!). Cheers!

-J

Race Recap: Batavia Half Marathon 8.26.2012

I’ve seriously been slacking on writing race recaps within a few days of the actual race. After getting a text from my sister saying, “You haven’t blogged about the race yet!”, I thought I’d sit down and do it tonight. (Because apparently SOMEONE is reading this!)

This past Sunday was a really good indication of how well my training is progressing this cycle. The goal was not to PR, but if it happened then I would be a happy girl. Coach and I chose this race because of its hills, which are seriously lacking during my runs along Chicago’s lakefront (as beautiful as it is). Because I can’t usually get out west to train on the weekends, I was looking forward to challenging myself in Batavia.

And challenging it was! As all of my runs are on flatland, the elevation chart below definitely got my heart rate going:

 

Despite the elevation changes, the goal was to run the entire race as a progressive and run the last 6 miles at 7:00 min/mile (or as close to 7:00 as I could manage!). I was a bit nervous about hitting that mark because that’s my tempo pace and those have been no easy feat in a normal training week.

Miles 1-5 went by really fast and I knew I was running too fast. I was supposed to target a 7:50 first mile and progress to a faster pace each consecutive mile afterward. Instead, this is how I started:

 

 

Definitely too fast. The last half of the race would likely have been much easier if I had given myself the time and distance to relax and enjoy myself a bit. Once I worked through miles 5-6, the elevation began more of a challenge.

 

Miles 9-10 were not part of the plan, but I’m proud of myself for keeping such a strong pace despite the hills that I was climbing. It was the first race in a long time where I saw people walking up the hills, especially considering they looked like people that would dominate the course. After mile 10, my legs fired up again (in a good way). I felt like my legs were moving smoothly and I was keeping up my momentum. My lungs weren’t especially tired from the pace I was holding and I knew I just had to hold it through mile 12 before trying to push the pace even more toward the finish line. About 800 meters from the finish line, the course crosses the river and you run over two arched bridges (I didn’t appreciate that!) and then it’s the last 150-200 meters to the home stretch. This is really the first time in awhile that I felt like I really had a kick at the end of a half marathon. There was one dude ahead of me and I knew I could catch him before crossing the line. It felt good to run through that chute giving everything I had.

I finished with an official time of 1:36:21, which is 13 seconds from my PR at the Carmel Half this past April (1:36:08). My last three half marathons have been within 13 seconds of each other (Rock ‘n Roll: 1:36:18). Consistency isn’t really what I was going for, but hey–I can’t complain.

I won 2nd place in my age group. Check out this awesome beer glass award! (Beer tastes especially nice out of a glass like that)

But, the greatest award of all was seeing my race photos and submitting one really beautiful one to Ugly Race Pics. Here it is in all its glory:

See? I told you it’s special!

Luckily, there were a few more redeeming ones in the bunch:

Running my 2nd 20-miler tomorrow morning before seeing family for the holiday weekend. Feeling great and looking forward to the next few weeks of training!

-J

Race Recap: Bastille Day 5k

5 kilometers. 3.1 miles.

Most long distance runners I know would much rather run a half marathon than a 5k. And I definitely feel the same. Call me crazy but there is something about sustaining a quick pace for 3.1 miles that seems more mentally & physically difficult than running a slower pace for 13.1 miles. Luckily, my speed training has been going really well in the past month after focusing on my half marathon time this past spring.

I ran the Bastille Day 5k last year with my boyfriend as his first official race. We ran it for fun together as his first race. The last 5k I ran was the Elvis is Alive 5k last August. That race was less than ideal, as I went out way too fast and slowed considerably a half mile from the finish line. (I suppose just like any other race, going out too fast is never the right strategy). My previous 5k PR was 23+ minutes.

This year was different. This time around, I wanted to break 21 minutes. 

My goal was to run the first 3 kilometers as close to 4:15 as possible and push the pace in the last 2 kilometers to come in just under my goal time. I managed to squeeze in a 1 mile warm-up while the 8k began and then jumped into the 5k ‘corral’. The gun went off and I went flying. (JHeath told me that he blinked and I was gone.). I was sleepy and groggy all afternoon and I really wasn’t looking forward to the race. But the start line can be pretty powerful; my legs were ready to get those 3 miles over and done with.

I looked down at my watch about a half mile in and realized I was running WAY too fast–my Garmin read 3:33/km. I spent the rest of the first mile telling myself to calm down and get closer to 4:15. At the turnaround, the field had thinned out and I felt pretty comfortable. My breathing was steady and my legs felt good. I knew that I was running a quicker pace and might be closer to 20 minutes at the finish line. It was just a matter of holding on to the pace and kicking it toward the finish if I had anything left in the tank. Less than 400 meters from the finish line, I tried to find my kick. I had been kicking it the entire race and it was hard to find that last little bit of energy. I saw the clock, crossed the line, and stopped to catch my breath.

I was really happy that I was able to tell my body to slow down enough in the first mile to make it to my goal. In the last mile I was able to pass a few gals and gained mental strength from that. I am pretty sure I earned 2nd place in my age group. (That’s silly business compared to Chicago Runner Girl’s overall female win!!! Congrats again, girl!)

Overall place: 42nd

Age group place: 2nd

Gender place: 5th

Official time: 20:38

~3 min PR

This was my first race in the New Balance RC 1600s and I couldn’t be more happy with them. I only logged 10 miles on them this past week but they felt fresh and formed to my foot nicely. I think they will be a great addition to the shoe rotation along with the Saucony Kinvaras (because I’m obsessed). I likely still need to find another shoe for a full rotation but I am happy with these two for now.

It is so relieving and refreshing to have a good race after my post-Bayshore Half temper tantrum. I needed a full 6 weeks to recharge, reassess, and prepare for this summer’s marathon training cycle. I’m happy that the rest has paid off and my head and heart are happy to be at the start line again because they definitely did not show up to compete the morning of Bayshore. For now, my racing schedule is completely wide open as Coach and I decide which races to add to the calendar. I had an amazing 16 mile long run on Saturday morning at an 8:09 average pace and I managed to make it through a full weekend of my sister’s bachelorette party festivities without crashing. I’ve been good to my body lately and now it’s rewarding me with some fun and competitive long runs and races. 🙂

[Note to self: read this post next time a run/race doesn’t go well and learn to suck it up and attack next time around!]

Race Recap: Bayshore Half Marathon

I ran my 8th Half Marathon on May 26th in Traverse City, MI. This spring has been all about focusing on the half marathon. Last year, my focus was solely on the Chicago Marathon as it was my debut marathon and I was determined to have  a good experience. As part of my training, I ran several half marathons (probably more than were necessary) but the final clock time was never the ultimate goal. In fact, I usually would run a few miles to warm up, run the half marathon, and run a few miles to cool down and contribute to my ‘long run’ of the weekend. It just so happened that I continuously ran personal records while also committing to these training runs.

So, this spring I decided speed was going to be a focus. I have been really happy with my progress since January. The Carmel Half was my “A” race of the season and I pulled off a time that I wasn’t even dreaming about a year ago: 1:36:08. So when I started to anticipate the Bayshore Half, I had mixed feelings. To be honest, my whole heart wasn’t in it. Some last-minute changes prevented my brother (and Coach) from running the race himself. Work had been crazy that week and I didn’t prepare myself mentally (or as much as I would have liked). I made a last ditch effort to get myself psyched for the race by buying a new race outfit at Sports Authority on Friday before catching the train.

I knew that sleep was going to be a factor in my performance. As I don’t have a car in the city, I took the train to Michigan City, IN and my mom picked me up to drive the remaining 4 hours to Traverse City. [My mom is really good at ditching everything and heading to Michigan whenever someone even mentions it in passing. She loves MI and I knew she’d jump at the opportunity. Thanks for the ride, Mom!]. I took a short nap in the car as it became dark and we arrived at the hotel at midnight. I finally made it to bed at 12:30 after eating a snack and drinking some water, only to be woken up by my 4:30 AM alarm.

Yup, you read that right. 4:30 AM.

The half marathon course is beautiful, as it runs the entire length of Old Mission Peninsula, with Traverse City in the bay to the south. But the half starts at the northern tip and all racers have to take a shuttle from the marathon start line up to the tip of the peninsula by 6:15, with a start time of 7:30. I took a shuttle from the airport to the Traverse City High School at 5 am, when I drank my coffee and ate my cup of oatmeal in the dark. I went to the old school gym, got my bib and race shirt (thank goodness for race day packet pickup!!!), and sat quietly before heading to the shuttle. I got in line for the shuttle at 5:45 and arrived at the half start by 6:15, which gave me over an hour to go to the bathroom, stretch, and warm-up.

2012 Bayshore coursemap

I was tired even before the race began, considering how little sleep I got the night before and the travel time on race morning.

I’ve run races on little sleep before. I even reminded myself that I had run my previous 5 min PR at the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half in April the day after flying in from Madrid from a business trip. If I could do that, I could run a race on 4 hours of sleep–or so I told myself. I ran a 1 mile warm-up before getting in line at the start. The race only accommodates less than 2500 runners in the half so it felt like a tiny hometown race, compared to the other races I’ve competed in this past year. No corrals–just a sign for different pace groups.

My strategy for this race is just as it was for Carmel–but faster. I divide the race into 5k intervals and try to focus on a certain pace for each segment, gradually increasing the pace every 5k. First, 7:40. Second, 7:30. Third, 7:20–>7:10. Fourth, 7:05—> as fast as I can possibly run! I wasn’t very comfortable in these times going into the race. I normally use my race strategy and the course map to visualize when I’ll arrive at each mile marker, but I was short on time and unfocused.

Notice anything? Yep, went out way too fast. Miles 1-3 should have been at 7:40 and Miles 4-6 should have been at 7:30. From there, the pace was to gradually increase. Instead, it stayed steady about 7:15 until I lost it at mile 12 when a blister that had been forming on the pad of my right foot popped and I walked for 20 seconds. It was really, really uncomfortable but I knew the adrenaline would kick in and it would probably hurt just as bad (or worse) to walk than it would to run on it.

I had an ambitious goal for this race. 1:35:00 is FAST. 

This was the first consecutive half marathon that I have not run a personal record. It’s a weird feeling and it led to a lot of disappointment in the week following the race. Slowly, I’ve come around and realized that not every race is going to be exciting and I can’t expect my body to perform perfectly each time. I will get to 1:35 eventually and I will be incredibly happy when I do. For now, I’m just happy that I’ve been able to cut down my half marathon time by over 7 minutes this spring alone!!! I also placed 3rd in my age group at Bayshore, which was an added bonus.

Now, I’m trying to figure out what I want to get out of the rest of this year. I’ve already decided that June is going to be full of rest and cross-training. I want running to remain FUN and rewarding. And the only way I can do that right now is to enjoy what my body has given me and take the time to enjoy doing other things. July, August, and September will be focused on training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I haven’t finalized any races leading up to it, but there are a few small ones on my radar. Looking ahead to the future…

-J

Race Recap: Carmel Half Marathon

I ran my 7th half marathon this past weekend. And it was the smallest half marathon I’ve competed in so far. Being based in Chicago has its advantages and disadvantages as a runner. Runners in Chicago are lucky enough to have a city that has developed urban spaces that cater to exercise fiends—the lakefront trail is every runner’s haven because it can be difficult to run long distances without being stopped at regular intervals at stoplights. On the other hand, we take a huge hit by suffering through the Chicago winter (luckily, that wasn’t the case this past year).

I’m originally from Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis. And nearby is a city named Carmel (no, I did not go to Cali for this race, although that sounds splendid right about now). Last year was the inaugural Carmel Half Marathon and Marathon and it took place in the summer. Race day was a gross, sweaty, humid mess and runners suffered through the heat. Luckily, for the 2nd annual event, they decided to move it to late April in order to avoid the heat.

I registered for the race back in early November when I planned out my spring half marathon schedule. I always like to have a race on the horizon, no matter the distance, because I find that it keeps me motivated and energized on days when I completely and utterly do not want to go running. That’s just the way I work. I felt prepared for this race, probably more so than any other race before. After running a solid PR at RnRUSA last month, I knew I had more life in my legs. I gave that race probably 75 or 80% of what I was capable.

My goal for the Carmel Half was a total run time of 1:36, which is a full 2 minutes 24 seconds faster than my time in DC. (A lofty goal, but one in which I was confident.) As I’ve mentioned before, I try to split half marathons into 5k sections and focus on the mentality of a progressive tempo (in other words, I gradually increase the pace every 3 miles until I max out and kick from mile 12-ish to the finish). It’s worked really well for me in the past and a negative split isn’t as difficult as it sounds once you do it.

I was lucky enough to have two friends come along with me for the race. Chanthana, Tim, and I rented a car for the weekend and drove down on Friday afternoon with plenty of time before the Saturday morning race. We went to the expo (tiny by our Chicago standards), gorged on delicious Italian food at Bravo’s (delicious by anyone’s standards), and returned to the hotel to rest (on comfy Hilton beds, which are comfy by everyone’s standards).

We woke up at 4:30 AM local time to eat, get dressed, and head to the start line. I ate a small bowl (errr…coffee mug?) of oatmeal, drank some coffee, and stressed about my race outfit. The weather was chilly, especially when compared with Chicago temperatures the past few weeks. It was 35 degrees and 13mph winds breezed by in the parking lot as we looked out from our hotel room. I didn’t even decided on my race top until 5 minutes before the race start! With 3 minutes to go ‘til the gun, I still hadn’t pinned my bib on my shirt—which has got to be the latest possible moment I’ve ever done that. (Note to self: don’t do that again).

I decided on Under Armour short compression shorts and a Nike light long sleeve shirt I got at the Chicago Marathon Expo (it probably had some good juju considering the wonderful memories I created that day). I took off  at a 7:40 pace and tried to settle my heart rate into a comfortable zone. –Side note: this race had added pressure for me because it’s a ‘hometown race’. Now, this was completely mental for me, because at the end of the day, no one would be disappointed in me if I had a bad finish. But I felt like I needed to live up to some sort of “expectation” because it was on home turf.

At mile 3, I focused on a consistent 7:30 pace. At this point, I was running a bit too fast. My legs wanted to go faster, but I knew I’d regret pushing the pace once I reached mile 10 or 11. My hands were pink from the cold and I had to shake them several times just to feel them. I settled into a pace with a cluster of runners from mile 4-8. And I was frustrated. I despise running behind the same people for an entire race. It’s my competitive nature—I figure, if I can hold a pace for several miles, there’s no reason why I can’t surge a bit to pass them. And I think it gives me a mental ‘clean slate’ to attack the next 5k of the half. At one point, one of these runners in the cluster started to have a conversation with me. He asked me if I had a goal time to finish and I told him “1:36:00”. He looked down at his own watch and tried to assess whether or not I’d meet that goal, which I had no time for. Then, I turned on my music, shut my mouth, and let the legs go for a few. No time for a friendly conversation, buddy! I have nothing against peer support, but I wasn’t running fast enough if this guy thought I had the energy to carry on a conversation with him.

By mile 6, I was comfortable and pushing to a 7:20 pace. I had settled into a 7:20-7:20 pace from miles 3-6 anyway, so I had to hold it there. The rolling hills made me feel the burn throughout the middle section. I haven’t had any hill training in the past few months but I focused on short strides and consistent cadence to get through them without expending too much energy. At mile 8, I saw my family cheering for me. I didn’t even know they were planning on spectating there and I felt special knowing that they’d taken the time to head out to the course as opposed to waiting at the finish line.

Mile 9—ok, Jenny—7:10 pace or faster. You can do this. At this point, I was focusing on passing as many people as I could through consistent surges. I knew that there weren’t too many females ahead of me and I thought about how cool it would be to get a top 10 female finish. (Again, small ‘hometown’ races are great—if nothing else, for the ego boost!) A dude told me around mile 10 that I was the 5th female runner and that I should catch the girl about 20 yards ahead of me.  I had been watching her for over a mile and a half and knew that I could pass her.

And, all of a sudden, I cross the Mile 12 marker. Ok, only 1 mile to go! My goal pace for this section? ….HAUL ASS! (I know, I’m pretty darn specific when it comes to this kind of stuff). And to be honest, I didn’t have much left but I felt like I could hold a 6:55-7:00 through to the finish. The pack had thinned out around mile 5 or 6, so at this point, I felt like I was pretty much running by myself in ‘no man’s land’. I remember looking at my watch and telling myself that I only have 800 yards left. I told myself that I’ve run 800 m repeats so many times in the past few months that it should be a cake walk. I saw the corner up ahead that led to the final 50 yards to the finish line and tried to surge a bit.

I remember looking forward at the finish banner and hearing Coach screaming at me to ‘kick it, Jenny, kick it!’. (Apparently I made absolutely no eye contact with him because I was totally in the zone. I was all business).

Then I saw the clock tick by 1:36:06 and pushed as hard as I could. And I hoped that I had a finish under 1:36:00, as planned.  It turns out I actually ran a 1:36:08 and finished in a competitive standing as 2nd in my division and as the 8th female finisher (per updated results on the website, of course).

    

Even though this was a small race with only about 1,000 finishers in the half marathon, I feel like I’m getting to the point where I can be pretty competitive. I’ve crossed a threshold this spring in my speed training and I’ve become so much faster by focusing on one workout at a time. At the same time, my distance training hasn’t suffered and I’m actually running nearly as many miles as I did before the Chicago Marathon. I’m stronger and learning more about how I can compete with each race that I participate in.

Can’t wait to run the Bayshore Half on Memorial Day weekend and see how much faster I can get!

-J