My One Word 2017: Conquer

Since January is already over, I guess I should formally announce My One Word for 2017.  I have picked a word of focus for my year over each of the past two years and I believe the practice helps to shape my year in many positive ways.

The first year, I chose “balance” because I felt my running was out of balance ( I was always getting injured) and time management in my life was out of balance as well.  Of course, maintaining balance is an ongoing struggle but I do believe that I handle it better since maintaining focus on it for an entire year.

Last year, I chose the word, “uncomfortable”, because nothing good ever happens in your comfort zone.  WOW! I had NO idea how uncomfortable I could make myself, and I also had NO idea the amount of growth that could happen once I pushed myself to live in that uncomfortable place.  To say that 2016 was an amazing year would be an understatement.img_3507

Moving on to 2017…..I wanted to choose a word that would build upon what I accomplished last year.  At first, I toyed with “risk”, because I wanted to risk “failure” in training and races.  I felt like the best way to grow was to push myself to do something that wasn’t a sure thing.  However, after some input from friends, I realized that “risk” implied that I was leaving things to chance.  And I am doing anything but that!  So after my Sole Sister mentioned the word “conquer” (and explained some of her reasoning), I realized that “conquer” would actually be more difficult for me to achieve.

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Sooooo, as Jenn pointed out, I actually DO need to conquer self-doubt, second guessing and feeling inadequate.  WHY does she always have to be right??  Even so, I really didn’t want to settle on “conquer”.  Putting myself in a situation in which I might have to deal with failure would have been MUCH easier than working on these other issues.  I even had a race picked out that I didn’t think I would finish – I think I could DNF a difficult race and be OK with myself before I could conquer self-doubt.  Conquering myself is definitely going to be the bigger challenge, by far!

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Fast forward to Houston Marathon.  Contrary to my normal mental outlook, I was actually VERY confident going into the race that I would get my BQ, even when the weather conditions went South and the race was to start under caution.  But going into a race with confidence and actually achieving the goal are two different things.

Earning that BQ has been a game-changer where my mental state is concerned.  I know it won’t last forever and I know that I’ll find myself in a place of doubt again at some point in the future, but for now, I actually believe in and am proud of myself.  Before, I felt like I had something to prove (maybe only to myself??) and I feel like I have proven it.  I am legitimate and enough, in my eyes anyway, which has calmed the restlessness of feeling inadequate (for now, anyway).

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Right now, I’m in a really good place.  I have some big races coming up, but I am still basking in the glory of my performance at Houston.  Obviously I want to race well anytime that I race, but I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself at all.  These are bucket list races and I am running them for the pure joy involved.  More on those adventures next time!!

Happy February, all!

Jen

Brazos Bend 100 Half Marathon: Race Recap

I had the BEST.  WEEKEND.  EVER!!  I went to the Houston area for Brazos Bend 100 – but I only ran the half marathon.  So many Renegades were running it that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hang out with my awesome teammates!  Seven of us were running the half, one was running the full marathon and four brave souls were attempting the 50 miler. Side note: I was originally signed up to run Big Cedar with this group and I dropped that race to attempt to qualify for Boston.  Even though I know it was the right decision, seeing them attempting the 50 really made me want to be out there with them – and made me a wee bit jealous!

Fellow Renegade Jeri and I made the trek down to Houston on Friday afternoon.  We met the crew for dinner, then brought Renegade Melinda back with us as the three of us were all staying at the same hotel.  (Somehow, we didn’t take ANY pics of the group at dinner!!)

We got up before the ass-crack of dawn and started the trek to Brazos Bend.  Thankfully, we had an uneventful trip and arrived right on time.  The parking gods were smiling down on us (probably because Melinda is SO NICE) and a park ranger waved us onto the grass to park (we had heard that the grass might be off-limits).  We were LITERALLY as close to our Renegade camp as we could get.  Sweeeeeeeet!!img_3070

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I went to pick up my bib and then started going through my pre-race routine.  I stopped to go cheer the 50 milers on as they started on their long journey.  I spent a little more time getting ready then went to see Ashley off on her 26.2 mile stroll (which was actually closer to 28).  Before I knew it, it was time to head to the start line for the half!

The 50 mile runners
The 50 mile runners
Our lone marathon runner
Our lone marathon runner
Some of the half marathoners. :)
Some of the half marathoners. 🙂

The Half

I really had no specific goals for this race.  Even though this was technically a *trail* race, the *trails* were gravel and smooth, for the most part.  And even though these trails were to be easy and non-technical, I didn’t expect to run as well as I do on asphalt.  I decided to run the best I could but play it smart and hold back, if needed.  With Houston only 5 weeks away, I had no wiggle room for nursing an injury – especially if it was a result of my stupidity.

I started out a little bit fast  and decided to ease up a tad around mile 3 and let myself get into a groove.  Still, I managed to somehow get away from the pack and found myself alone when I came back around Elm Lake – the wind coming off the lake was frigid and I wanted SO BADLY to have someone in front of me to block it.  As luck would have it, there were a couple of guys not too far ahead of me.  I caught up to them and they were running a pace I could live with so I decided to draft them for a while.  I hung with them for a couple of miles until it seemed like they were slowing down (or maybe I was finally warmed up) so I broke up with them and went on my way.

At this point, I was running 8:15-8:20 miles and it felt like such an easy pace. (Add THAT to the list of things that I NEVER thought would come out of my mouth….seriously.)  I figured I would rock along and start kicking it up as I got deeper into the race.  I didn’t account for the swamp section of the course, where the road was rutted and muddy and I had to run around the puddles in the grass.  I felt like this was slowing me down, but the gospel according to Garmin says that these miles were 8:05-8:10 range, so I suppose that was all in my head.  I passed Brent and Tim as they were coming back down this stretch – they were nearing the end of their first loop and they looked strong and seemed in good spirits.

I rocked along until mile 10 and decided I should probably try to get myself into the pain zone some, so I tried to kick it up a little bit.  I’m not sure if my quads were tired from the surface – it definitely was an easy trail but it wasn’t asphalt – or if it was from the flat course.  In any case, I felt a little fatigue in them.  I still managed sub-8 on miles 11 & 12.  I slowed some on mile 13, but was able to finish strong.

My time: 1:52:37 (the course was actually 13.78 miles).  I finished 35th overall, 9th in women and 1st in my age group (40-49).  I was VERY pleased with the results!!  Garmin clocked my time at the 13.1 mark as 1:46:31 – only about 1 minute off my road PR.  Something worth mentioning is that my heart rate on the 1:45 road race was in zone 5 for most of the race.  My heart rate was in zone 3 for the majority of this race and the temps and conditions were similar, so YAY for improving fitness!img_3083

After the Half

After I cleaned up, there wasn’t much to do but wait.  And eat.  And wait some more.  Ashley came in from her first loop looking strong and under her time goal and headed out again.  Then the other half marathoners started coming in.  Brent came through to start his 3rd loop.  Tim came in not too long after Brent.  He was dealing with some plantar and tight calf issues, so I stretched him out and massaged his calves while he grabbed some food.  We got Tim on his way again and then Ryan came rolling through.  We took care of him and he was off in no time.

Before Brent went back out, he mentioned one of us coming pace him on the back side of the course.  Some time passed and Karon mentioned that it was about time to go find him and that I would probably be the best one to run him in.  I went to put on my wet, stinky, cold running clothes back on and headed out to find him.  I was pretty sure I knew where he was, but ran into Ashley as I was headed that way.  I asked if she had seen Brent, but she didn’t remember seeing him – this was on the section of the course that was out and back, so I knew she would have passed him.  I should have kept going but I was afraid that he was back up the course in the opposite direction, so I ran in a bit with her until we ran into Karon.  Luckily Brent called Karon right as I walked up.  He was actually on the part of the trail I had been headed down, after all.  I felt TERRIBLE because of all that time I had just wasted.  So I headed BACK to find him….. I also felt horrible skipping by all these 50 and 100 mile runners. They had been out there so long and I had eaten, cleaned up and taken a nap in my warm car.  I had only run 14 miles, so my legs were relatively fresh. I kept telling them I wasn’t racing – just headed to pace someone. Seriously, it’s such a defeating feeling when people whiz by you like that – it has happened to me during marathons with people running the relay.  I knew Brent had 7 miles to go when I left Karon and I expected to run into him by the time I got to mile 4, but nope. When I started coming up on the last aid station where the course turned around I started to get worried because…..WHERE WAS HE?!? As I got closer, I saw him over at the aid station just snacking and talking.  Off we went to run in these last few miles.  As soon as we got within sight of the finish line, he took off in a sprint…..and met his goal of coming in under 9 hours! I felt so honored to be able to be a part of that!img_3107

Unfortunately, Jeri and I had to head back home and I wasn’t able to see Tim, Ryan or Melinda finish. I really hated to miss it but I also didn’t want to be driving up I-45 after midnight!  But in February….when these guys run the 100 miler…I WILL be there!! Plus I get the honor of pacing Melinda on her last lap. I’m beyond excited!  It is so much fun being able to cheer on your teammates and see them crush their goals!!

Until then, I have my eyes set on Houston. It’s not going to be easy but I am starting to believe that I can do it!!  Less than 5 weeks to go!!

Happy Tuesday 🙂

Race Recap: Red Blue Half Marathon (Spoiler Alert: It’s a PR!)

This weekend, I ran a much-needed redemption race.  I know a lot of people will shake their heads in disbelief that I said that, but it is true.  I’ve been struggling mentally, off and on, since dealing with my psoas issues that started in April – I’m not going to rehash it again.  I’ve beat that dead horse enough.

After I finally got myself together mentally, I began looking toward this little race as a BIG chance to redeem myself.  I reflected on my race performances over the past few months to see what I could improve upon and I came up with a few things to practice during this race.

This race benefited local police and fire departments. The fire department hung this flag over the finish line!
This race benefited local police and fire departments. The fire department hung this flag over the finish line!

First, I wanted to get out of aid stations more quickly.  The last half of Rochester, my walks through the aid stations got longer and longer – too long.  Even though a half isn’t the same kind of beast as a full, I knew I could use practice getting in and out of the aid stations as fast as possible.  I can’t run and drink from a cup.  PERIOD.  I realized after Rochester that the temptation to slow down while walking through the aid station is too great – especially when I am tired and in the last stages of the race.  I decided to try stopping, downing the water and immediately moving on.  It worked in this race, but the temps were favorable and cooler and obviously I didn’t have to contend with mile 20.  Regardless, I’m sticking with this plan.  It seemed to work.

Second, I wanted to race aggressively.  Last Spring, I was finally learning how to manage taking risks during races but then – psoas happened.  I had to baby it and take it easy and not push too hard.  For MONTHS.  My personality is to stay in the safe zone anyway, so I didn’t need any encouragement to take it easy.  I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the comfort zone.  So my plan for the race was to warm up, keep my heart rate in mid-high 160s and then increase from there.  I executed this part perfectly!!  (Although I may have had some help from the steroids that I’m currently taking for my shoulder.  LOL!!)  Honestly, I was afraid that I started out too fast, but my HR settled into the zone that I wanted by mile 2, so I decided to stick with it as long as I felt OK.  I was still feeling really strong at the halfway point.  I knew I was sitting at 15th female overall because it was an out and back course and I had counted the women ahead of me.  I was a little (OK..A LOT) ticked that I was in 15th, so I used that as motivation for kicking it up at the half.  I cranked it up and ran in the upper 170s until the 10-mile mark.  I passed 3 women (and a handful of men), so I was sitting in 12th at this point.  Number 11 female was still a ways off with her pink pullover and her ponytail braid.  I didn’t really think I had a chance to catch her but figured I might as well keep trying to close the gap.

Side note: at mile 9, I began calculating what my expected finish time would be if I could maintain my pace.  (Disclaimer: I am HORRIBLE at run math!!)  I was on track for 1:45 at the half and I knew I hadn’t slowed, so I was expecting to still be on track for 1:45.  I was at 1:12 and started calculating in my head.  I was running 8 minute miles, on average, so I multiplied….forty minutes to go would put me at the finish at 1:52.  WAIT…HOW is that possible??  I spent an entire mile trying to figure out how I was suddenly so far behind and FINALLY realized that I multiplied by 5 instead of 4.  THIS is why I just run by heart rate!

My third and final goal was to spend the last 5k in the pain zone.  Like I said earlier, I usually play it too safe and end up still having a lot of energy at the end of the race.  It works well for negative splits, but I’m always left wondering if I could have done more.  My goal was to cross the finish line on empty, leaving NO doubt about whether or not I could have pushed harder.  Mile 10 came and I gave it all that I had, which seemed like a lot but didn’t really reflect in my splits.  Miles 12 and 13 were THE MOST PAINFUL miles I’ve ever run or raced.  I was getting close to pink ponytail braid girl, but I was right in the middle of the pain zone so I didn’t feel like I had any extra to give at that point.  I also felt like I was slowing down and really thought I ran mile 13 at an 8:30 pace (until I went back and looked at the splits and saw that it was 8:10).  My Garmin pace was all over the place even when I knew I hadn’t changed pace *that* much – this may explain why the course measured short on my watch.  Even through all this pain, I never entertained the idea to slow down or walk, which was a BIG battle won!!

Happier with mile 12 and 13 splits than I expected.
Happier with mile 12 and 13 splits than I expected.
Another win for the day: I successfully french braided my hair. YAY!!
Another win for the day: I successfully french braided my hair. YAY!!

Regardless of my time, I managed to meet all the goals that I set for myself so this race was a big mental boost.  Speaking of time…..I ran this race in 1:45:11!!!  Going into the race, I felt pretty confident that I could run a 1:45, but I was trying to focus more on the processes which needed improvement as opposed to the end result.  However, I was VERY excited to cross the finish with that time!!  I was pretty sure that I placed in my age group, but had to wait around for what seemed like forever for any race results to be posted.  I did end up 2nd in my age group.  I missed first place by only 21 seconds and…..pink ponytail girl was the one that snagged 1st!!  So close! LOL

I joked with pink ponytail braid girl about chasing her the entire second half.
I joked with pink ponytail braid girl about chasing her the entire second half.

One issue that I have is how to handle these super flat races, as Houston will also be pretty flat.  It does make it easier to manage running even splits, but I ALWAYS think that I am going up!  I seriously thought I was going up virtually the entire first half and was looking so forward to the second “downhill” half.  But then when I actually got into the second half, I still thought that I was going uphill.  And even though going up hills slows me down, I can still make up some time and get my heart rate down on the downhills.  I’ll be working on wrapping my mind around how best to handle this so I can be as mentally prepared as possible at flat Houston!

Happy Tuesday!!  Its TRACK day!! <squeals>