Jumping off the Crazy Cliff

In an attempt to catch everyone up to my crazy antics of late and to pick up where I left off in yesterday’s blog, I’m blogging two days in a row.  <shocked face>  That hasn’t happened since…….I can’t remember.  I always have the best intentions, but you know what they say about that….

2016 is finally taking shape

If you knew me this time last year, you would know that I was still clawing my way back from that nasty ITB injury.  I was still attempting to build some sort of base fitness level and was doing those gosh awful run/walk intervals, so any kind of racing was out of the question.

2016 is a completely different year, though, and I am getting close to getting the framework of my race calendar set.  A couple of things are still up in the air but I’m hoping to schedule one last marathon toward the end of the year – I’m waiting to see how the rest of the season goes before I make any rush decisions on that one.  (Which will be a *first* for me, as one of my friends calls me “Trigger” because of my hasty race sign-up tendencies.)

Road Races

My next race is RnR Dallas HM on March 20.  Even though the weather will likely be much warmer, I am going to see if I can continue the progress that I made at Cowtown, step out of my comfort zone and take a few risks.

Ragnar Austin is quickly approaching!  This 200-mile, 12-person relay will start in Fredericksburg in the wee morning hours on April 15.  We will race South then back North, ending the race in Austin sometime late Saturday.  I am beyond excited for this experience, as a Ragnar has been on my bucket list for quite some time now.

After Ragnar, I am planning to run Skyline HM on May 1.  I ran Skyline last year.  While I didn’t really care for the course, this race has a special place in my heart because it was my first race post-injury.  Of course, it will be hot and I always need practice racing in the heat.

I’ll have a dry spell on the road race front until the Rochester Marathon on September 18.  This will be my first full marathon of 2016 (am hoping to schedule another one in late December).  It is on track to be my favorite and most special race of the year because it will mean a reunion with my Sole Sister Jenn!  AAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD – this race will be her FIRST full marathon and I get to be there when she punches her ticket as a marathoner!  I could not be more honored or excited!

I am considering at Salinas Valley Half Marathon on August 6, if a college visit trip to Cali pans out.  If I make it, I will get to meet my good friend, Marci, in person and hopefully a few other Cali friends!

Tri-ing the Tri

Oh, the things I let my coach talk me into….

I am officially signed up for Pioneer Power Sprint Tri at the end of July.  This will be a special induction into the world of tri because Taylor is doing it with me!  Another meaningful twist is that this event is held at TWU, which is Taylor’s college alma mater.  I’m still scared to death of swimming 200m AT ONE TIME.  Swimming is coming along so quickly, though, that by the time July rolls around I should be MORE than ready!!

Transitioning to Trails

WHEN will I learn to never say never?!?  Because once upon a time I am pretty sure I said I would NEVER run a trail race.  I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that I said I would NEVER run a 50 mile race.  I did, in fact, sign up for a 50 mile race just a mere 3 days after declaring that I would NEVER run a 50 miler.  I completely and unequivocally blame my coach and my crazy teammates for this.

As scary as this monumental mound of miles may seem, I am still more frightened of swimming 200m in my July triathlon.  Go figure.

In any case, I’m fairly excited about this challenge.  It’s fun to run with teammates and this race will give me A LOT of QT with them! LOL  We are actually planning to stay together during the race to lend support to each other.

Looking to the horizon

I have another exciting goal up my sleeve that I’m not ready to share with the world just yet.  I guess deep down inside I need to find the confidence in myself to actually believe I can do what I’m hoping to do.

Stay tuned…… 🙂

Two more days until Spring Break!!!  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…..

Happy Hump Day!

Jen

 

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2015: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Initially, I wasn’t going to write the obligatory end of the year summary.  As the year winds to a close, however, I naturally started thinking about where the year had taken me, and I wanted to document it – if only just for me.  It’s been A year!  I have had some heart-stopping, stellar moments.  I’ve also had some heart-stopping, heartbreaking moments.

2015 Word of the Year

Last year, I chose a word of the year: Balance.  I felt everything in my life was OUT of balance and I desperately needed to get control of things.  My running was clearly out of control – I was prone to over-training and terrible at supplementing my fitness with cross-training and strength.  I was over-scheduled in almost every area of my life – there were some things over which I had control of scheduling and many things that I did not.  I’m not going to lie….I still struggle with balancing all of life’s demands.  But, I am better at the balancing act now than I was 365 days ago.  Truth be told, this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m up for it!

The Bad and The Ugly

I’m lumping “The Bad” and “The Ugly” together because I simply want to be DONE with all this negativity! LOL

  • Started the year with an ITB injury that stole the first 4 weeks of the year from me.  I was finally able to s-l-o-w-l-y return to running the last week of January.
  • Battled another injury – stress fracture in my heel – in July.  This hiccup took another month of running away from me and in the setback I wondered if I would be fit enough to run the full at Dallas.IMG_4598
  • The entire year felt like a battle.  I was battling to beat my ITB.  Then I was battling to recover from my heel.  Recovering from injury takes a lot of time, patience that I don’t have, and mental fortitude.
  • My biggest battle was in my mind.  It isn’t a secret (or at least I don’t think it is a secret) that I don’t have a lot of faith in my abilities – unless you count my ability to injure myself, in which case I have full faith in that!  Spending basically an entire year injured caused me to doubt myself.  I didn’t believe that my body could recover enough to ever run long distances again.  I didn’t believe that I could run smart enough to stay uninjured.  I just didn’t believe in me at all.  This was, hands down, the biggest tragedy of the year.

The Transformation

When I looked back at some of my earlier blog posts, I realize how much I had to learn….and how much I have learned!  I can’t believe how much I have matured as a runner.  I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I have been able to find a peace with running that I never had before.  Some things I learned on my own.  Some lessons were taught to me by John, my partner for part of the year until he moved, and others I learned from my current coach, Brent.

  • I started the year with the intent to train by heart rate, but that change didn’t happen fully until I started working with my current coach in October.  The beauty of this is that all things prepare us for what will happen in the future.  Since I had been monitoring my heart rate all year, I knew how my heart would react in certain situations. Since my training with Brent is set up almost exclusively by heart rate, I was ahead of the curve, in a sense, because I already “knew” my heart.  This type of training has been very good for my running!
  • My partner, John, taught me the importance of running slower (which, ties right into the heart rate training).  With his guidance, I learned how to pace myself (which is something that I COULD NOT do before running with him).  Developing this discipline in my running certainly laid the groundwork for great things to come and made it much more easy for me to execute workouts properly.
  • I finally learned to listen to my body, even though I didn’t always act upon it.  I hope that will come as I continue maturing as a runner.  The fact that I now notice those little things is a huge victory.
  • I gave up running with music.  BEST.  DECISION.  EVER.  Taking away the distraction of the music opened up so many amazing things.  First, I can listen to my footsteps to see if there are any imbalances.  I am more aware of my breathing.  I don’t get lost in songs and beats, which formerly meant I would end up running too fast.  In addition, during those tough spots in a run, I had to rely on myself to get through it rather than finding a song to distract me though it.  BIG difference.  I think that helped my confidence A LOT.
  • The most beautiful thing happened when I started believing in myself.  By the time Dallas rolled around, I began to have a quiet confidence and somehow learned to have peace with what would come – good or bad.  I honestly didn’t fret over that race, which, if you know me, is a MIRACLE.  I am carrying that peace and confidence with me into 2016!

Cycling helped me through the rough patches

I love to bike….outdoors.  I dislike riding on the trainer, but I did a lot of that early in the year because I knew how much the cross-training would help my recovery.  Cycling also saved me during my heel fracture, because I was given the green light to ride as much as I wanted as long as I didn’t suffer discomfort.  I biked A LOT in July!

This year, I transitioned from a hybrid to a road bike, and with that came clip-ins.  Most people know how clumsy I am, and so you can imagine the number of falls I had because I would forget to twist my foot out….all of them happened in my drive-way!  I still laugh about it.

I do love any time that I get on the bike, however, and who knows – there may be a tri in my future.

The Good, Running-wise

Despite the setbacks, I had lots of victories on the roads this year.

  • Ran Skyline HM in May, even though it might have been too close to rehab and recovery.  I was 8 minutes off my PR, but the important thing is that I was able to run a fairly strong race, and it felt like a HUGE victory.Medal
  • I ran Rock the Block 10k at the end of May because I wanted to focus on some shorter distances to help bring down my HM time.  I was able to PR this race by about a minute @ 57:46.

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter :)
    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter 🙂
  • Even though Plano Balloon HM was the WORST race of the year for me, it was a victory.  I ran this race after being back from my heel injury only 7 weeks.  I realize (now) that I was being to aggressive, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever :)
    Maybe my favorite race sign ever 🙂
  • I joined Renegade Endurance and love having the support of the athletes in the club.  It is so much fun to hear about their successes and lift them up, and racing is much more fun when your teammates are there racing as well!

    My RE team members are the BEST!
    My RE team members are the BEST!
  • Rock n Roll St. Louis was one of the highlights of my year.  I went into this race just wanting to finish strong, plus the main reason I went was to socialize with my group of Twitter friends.  At this point, I had run Plano Balloon just a month earlier and missed an entire week of workouts afterward because my body wasn’t ready to run that race.  I had just started working with Brent and the main goal was Dallas Marathon.  I was completely shocked and surprised when I ended up with a PR 2:13:17 (by 43 seconds! LOL).
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    My Sole Sister Jenn
    My Sole Sister Jenn
  • Believe 10k was the first 10k I ever ran.  Every year, I want to get down to McKinney to run it again but it never seems to work out.  When I asked my coach if I could run it instead of the 8 mile training run, he gave the green light and I immediately signed up.  But then, the monsoons of Thanksgiving  nearly washed away my hopes of running the race.  The race went on as scheduled, and I went, prepared for a wet, cold race.  I ended up with another PR 56:15 (1:30 better than May) and first in my age group!
  • I knew that I would have to run a TERRIBLE race to not PR at Dallas Marathon this year.  2014 was the race of the bum ITB and it took me wayyyyyyy too long.  This race was to be the highlight of my year, plus I felt I had something to prove on that course.  I was somehow able to run the most perfect race ever…for me anyway…and ended up with 4:15:12, considerably faster than the 2014 bum ITB marathon. Plus, I beat my time goal by 15 minutes!  My biggest fear is that I have now peaked.  Even so, I’ll take it, because so many runners never have a race experience as good as the one I had!  This is the race that made me feel like a real runner; like a real marathoner.

Here are just a few of the well wishes I got from my friends, near and far during and after Dallas:img_6754


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This one had to call me at the finish line ;)
This one had to call me at the finish line 😉

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The Non-Running Stories

So many non-running things happened in 2015.  As I look back, it probably seems that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but I think I decided that I am too old to care what anyone thinks, plus I’m running out of time to do all the fun stuff!

  • I lost my tattoo virginity.  By the end of the year, I had already gotten my second tattoo!  Be looking for a 3rd after Ragnar….I’m forcing myself to wait until then!BraceletIMG_6173
  • I jumped out of a plane.  SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I will go again in 2016, to take Logan when he turns 18 years old!Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034
  • Taylor went to Thailand, lost her passport in Tokyo and lived to tell the tale.
  • Taylor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University.147
  • Alli’s team, Madfrog 10 National, was the highest placing American team at AAU Nationals, placing 7th in the nation.  The top 6 teams were Puerto Rican.rainforest
  • While in Orlando for AAUs, I rode in a helicopter!Takeoff
  • Logan made a 34 on his ACT, which was supposed to be “just a practice”.

Looking back, 2015 was a very good year!  I look forward to continuing this progress in 2016!

Happy 2016!!

Jen

 

Skyline Half: Race Recap

This will be my second (feeble) attempt at blogging a race recap.  My first time was fitting as it was about my first marathon.  I have remembered so many things since from that race that, during the race I wanted to add to the blog, but didn’t recall when I was writing the post.  I sat down after this race to jot down some notes, but I already know I will pale in comparison to my seasoned, more-wordy blogger friends. 🙂

Pre-Race

 I was up at the butt-crack of dawn (which is to say that I was up at my usual wake-up time) aka 4:45 AM.  Luckily I had prepared my coffee the night before so all I had to do was hit the start button.  (Yes, I have tried the timer and NO, I don’t use it.  I just don’t trust myself to set it correctly.)  So I started my coffee and while it was brewing, showered and got dressed.  I was so worried that I was going to forget something even though I packed my bag the night before.  I’m going to spoil it for you now and tell you that I did not get out of the house with everything I needed.  The good news is that I only forgot 2 things.  The bad news is that both those items were food/fuel-related.  OK….back on track.  So I got dressed and grabbed my first cup of coffee (fittingly out of the coffee cup my Twitter sole sister @karaokejennjenn sent me!) and finally started to wake up.  As my English muffin was toasting, I checked my bag and set everything by the door.  Then I inhaled ate my usual breakfast of cinnamon raisin English muffin with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.  (This seriously makes me soooooo happy every morning!)  At 5:45, I was out the door and had all my bags (and coffee!) in the car.

Barely made it Arrived at Race!Bridge

After a couple of “set-backs” en route, I arrived at the race with roughly 30 minutes to spare.  Normally this would stress me out, but this time wasn’t as big of a big deal, since this race was such a small one anyway.  However, I really needed to pee.  So my first order of business (after pinning my bib on) was to find a port-a-potty.  I was able to find a couple and got in line, only to have a race volunteer shoo us away because 2 of the 3 were out of toilet paper.  (Looking back, it might have been best to drip dry in the paper-less potty.)  We were sent down the hill to the main potty location, which also had a long line by this point.

The actual potties are in the top left of the pic.  Terribly long when you are about to wet your shorts.
The actual potties are in the top left of the pic. Terribly long when you are about to wet your shorts.

When I had arrived, I texted my Twitter friend, Erica (@anotherhalfpls) because we were planning to meet up and celebrate Dara’s (@daralem) birthday with tacos and (my) cupcakes after the race.  Would you believe that they arrived after I did, found a port-a-potty, used it and found me STILL in my potty line?  By the time they found me, I had to pee so badly that my mouth was watering.  Seriously it was nearing defcon 5!  Luckily, I made it before I had an accident AND made it to the start with 5 minutes to spare (even if the 5 minutes was courtesy of a late race start ;).

The potty wasn’t my only pre-race problem, though.  I had intended to grab a banana at the house to eat just before the race, since it would be almost 3 hours since eating breakfast by the time the race started.  Sadly, I did not remember the banana (the first of 2 forgotten food items), so I was basically starving at this point! But, oh well.  Couldn’t change anything, so I decided I wouldn’t stress over it (SOOOOO not me).  PLUS, when if things went awry, I would have a great excuse because everyone knows improper fueling can derail a race!

The Race

 This was the inaugural running of the Skyline Half Marathon.  It was a small race put on by Run Project in the Dallas area.  There were around 850 runners total, with roughly 350 of those running the half marathon.  Even though this was a small race, the numbers seemed high for the trails that we ran beneath the bridge.  The start was crowded and it seemed to take well over a mile before the crowds started to thin.  race start

My partner was running the race with me to pace me so that I didn’t run lights out until I passed out on the sidewalk (don’t laugh – it could have happened).  Seriously, though, he has come to know me very well and knows that I wouldn’t have been able to resist the urge to run full-throttle from the start, which could have led me right back into another injury.  As I stated last week, this was to be executed as a “training” run, although I knew from the start we would run a bit faster than our usual slower-than-a-turtle long slow run pace.  He had told me that the first 10 miles would be run around 11:15, with us increasing speed the last 3 miles to 10:30 or so.  (Please know that I protested this in full-blown toddler tantrum mode, even though these paces were much faster than our turtle long slow runs.)

For those of you who have the Garmin Forerunner 620 and have always wondered what the “Race” activity profile does, you’re in luck because I used that profile.  If you are someone who runs a race purely on “feel”, then this setting will work for you, as the only thing displayed is distance and time.  (You will get the usual mile split notification on each mile.)  If you are like me and look down at your watch only to realize you’re going 1:30 faster than you thought/should….this is not the profile you should use on race day.  At race start, I wasn’t too concerned about this, since I wasn’t to worry about pace anyway….that was the partner’s job.  LOL

Mile 1 came in at 11:16, much to my dismay after he had announced that we had gone out too fast and rattled off a 10:45 pace (I had gotten a bit excited that he was going to let us run faster than planned).  Of course, he is nothing, if not steady and our next 4 miles came in around 11:20-11:35 – all slower than I wanted, but he assured me it was well within his race plan, within his “fudge factor” as he called it.  My legs felt really fresh and everything felt so good.  I was able to get into a good groove early on and even tried to run off and leave him several times (not on purpose…just me in my ‘zone’)…until he asked where I was going.  I reminded him that the rope around my waist might have been a good idea.  Around mile 5, he told me that he was going to cut me loose at mile 7.  I seriously nearly screamed. (I have a feeling this may have been his plan all along.  I’m glad that he waited to tell me, though!)  I was sooooo excited!  I found it hard to contain my excitement and still kept trying to motor off.  I was feeling so strong at this point.  However, in the back of my head, I wondered what the second half would bring because of the second food item I had forgotten at home: my gel.

When our watches alerted us to mile 7, my partner told me to go run my race, that he knew I was ready and I would do great.  And as I ran ahead of him, he reminded me not to run it as hard as I could and to try to hold myself back a little.  Mile 8 came in at 10:30, roughly 1:00 faster than our previous miles.  I spent some time trying to get into a rhythm without running full-out.  I wanted to post negative splits, but I knew that I needed some extra strategy to navigate those end-of-race miles without any fuel.  I’ve never run that far without fueling and my breakfast had been sooooo long ago.  Mile 9 came in at 10:52.  I’m not quite sure what happened to cause that, because even though I made all these mental notes during the race…..I can’t remember!  I’m sure it was ALL due to lack of fuel.  LOL!!!  I did realize after mile 9 that I needed to start accelerating my pace.  Mile 10 came in at 10:02 and at this point, I was around the 1:50 mark and knew that I would really have to push it to finish before 2:30.  (A slower than 2:30 finish was really bugging me.  I just didn’t think I could live with that.)  At the mile 10 water stop, I decided I should probably drink Gatorade to give me something resembling fuel.  I didn’t chase it with water, however, and pushing the pace, along with the blazing heat caused me do develop some nausea.  I’m certain it had NOTHING to do with the big-ass bridge I had just climbed in the blazing sun.  (For the record, I still LOVE hills….and I won against that bridge!)  I kept pushing, though, and miles 11-13 came in at 9:53, 9:40, 9:47.  I could tell the heat and lack of fuel were taking a toll because I could feel my quads and was starting to feel a little fatigued.   There were 2 more water stations and I walked through both of those, but this time I chased the Gatorade with water.  It was just enough to keep me going.  Miles 12-13 were brutally hot and it wasn’t made any better from the way I was pushing myself.  However, I still felt SO STRONG!  I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t had any issues at all, and I began to realize that I could finish the race in a good physical and mental state.  The last .10 came in at 9:16 pace, but that was an easy push as I was under the bridge and in the shade by that point.  My official finish was 2:23:50, which is almost 8 minutes off my half marathon PR of 2:14:00 (which isn’t to be confused with my training PB of 2:04 :).  I’ll gladly take it, though, because the run was amazing!

Yes, Marci, I am keeping this medal! ;)
Yes, Marci, I am keeping this medal! 😉

Race Lessons

Every race teaches some lessons and this one is no different.

First and foremost, this race gave me back my confidence and swagger.  That may sound funny to a lot of you, but I am completely serious.  My spirit was almost broken with that ITB injury and I didn’t trust my body.  I still didn’t fully trust my body coming into this race, even with some of the amazing strides that I had made during training.  I owe all of that to my partner and coach.  Without his guidance to train smart, I can almost guarantee I would be injured again.  I appreciate his help so very much.

Second, Jen shouldn’t use the race profile on her Garmin.  I need to be able to adjust my pace more often than every mile and I felt like I was running blind when I was finally cut loose on my own.  Until I gain the experience to know the feel of each pace, I need to keep my watch out of race mode!

We walked through every water stop.  My partner is a big believer in this and I just shook my head at him.  However, it was WAY better than carrying my own water and it really didn’t affect my time.  I really enjoyed not having all that “stuff” to carry.

This was my first race without music.  I haven’t run with music since my partner and I started running together in March, so this is the farthest distance I’ve gone without it.  I really don’t miss it at all anymore, and I can even handle solo runs without it.  I do think that it is helping me listen to my body and stay more in touch with myself during the run.

This isn’t really a “lesson”, but I MUST work on my mental game during races.  On the races where the course loops back around, I have difficult time dealing with seeing the other runners passing by the other way.  It just seems like I will NEVER get to the turn-around point and in this race, there were two!!

Post-Race Party Time!

Personally, I was disappointed with the post-race support provided by the race organizers.  There was a water station just past the finish line, but then runners were herded up to street level to get medals.  So up to street level we went.  There was a tent with breakfast burritos and bananas….but NO WATER!  So of course we headed over to the beer tent and tried out a new lager that a local brewery was sampling.  Lakewood Brewery out of Garland was giving away their newest brew, Lakewood Lager.  I’m not a big beer drinker, but it was decent and it was wet and cold.  Wet and cold met all the specifications I needed in a beverage at that point.  After the beer, I headed to change clothes and meet Erica and Dara after their finish.

Erica, Dara and I were planning to meet another Twitter friend, Maegen (@MtotheG7) at Rusty’s Tacos in Plano to celebrate Dara’s birthday and our completion of the race.  Erica was in rare form, still angry at Mother Nature for blessing us with another blazing hot race day and causing her face to be ‘white with salt’. (STILL laughing over that remark)   (She had melted in Plano Balloon Half last Fall and I think she still has flashbacks of how terrible it was.)  This was my first time to eat at Rusty’s and I was not disappointed.  I am Texan, after all, and ALWAYS game for street tacos.  I was SO HUNGRY that I almost forgot to take a pic!! Rustys

We sat out on the patio and, surprisingly, it was so lovely and breezy.  It was NOTHING like the race course! The girsl

And after we were stuffed with tacos, everyone got a box of birthday cupcakes!Dara's bday cupcakes

 Have I mentioned how much I love making cupcakes?

And now, two days post race, I am feeling FABULOUS!!  I have zero soreness in my muscles and minimal tightness.  I even ran an easy 30 min this morning and it felt amazing!! The race was a win all the way around!

Have a terrific Tuesday!

Jen