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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lesson Learned...Never Give Up!

On October 18th I stood on the starting line of the Columbus Marathon, my legs and mind strong and ready to compete.  I knew today would be my day. My teammate Kelsi agreed as she text on her drive down, to tell Ellie and I she had saw a shooting star, and knew it was going to be an amazing day. As we lined up with a few last moments of nervousness the song "Thunderstruck" played, and Nicole Camp excitedly ran up to me and confirmed it was going to be my day.  She reminded me of my senior year at the University of Akron at the MAC meet when Toledo (the team Nicole ran for) pulled up blazing this song.  They were feeling what would prove to be over confident their ability to win the meet.  Only to be handed their asses by us in a score of 41 to 64. I smiled and reminded myself to be smart. That day, things took a turn for the worse around 19 miles, and I made a decision to have no regrets, and I pressed as hard as I could, running 2:44:44.  I had up 1:44 seconds short of the Olympic Trials standard. See my Columbus Marathon recap here.  I could have just as easily relented in the final miles and run 30 seconds slower. I had no idea just how valuable being relentless would turn out to be.

Pushing for the finish line at Columbus

My heart felt broken, and despite my current lack of an OTQ I couldn't shake the feeling that I would be on the starting line in February.

On December 6th I held my breath, and hoped with all my heart that Sarah Robinson (an incredible woman who works for Oiselle, and has always been a huge supporter of mine) would snag the OTQ.  I received a text telling me she had made it running 2:42:36.  My eyes welled with tears of joy for her.  My tears would later turn to ones of envy.  In those moments I knew I had to take another shot at the trials standard.  I bought my plane ticket to Jacksonville the following day, and confirmed I would be racing on January 3rd.  I started mentally preparing to run 5:42 pace for the half marathon, until I could physically no longer run it, or until I crossed the finish line in Jacksonville.  Make it or die trying would be the moto I would remind myself of day in day out.  I couldn't handle wondering what if any longer. The battle lines were drawn.

2008 Austin Marathon my first marathon, and OTQ 

December 10th we took a trip to Westernport Maryland to visit my family.  We were staying with my grandma, and cell service was spotty at best.  I received some texts saying that IAAF had changed their Olympic qualifying standard to 2:45 and there was rumor that USATF may follow suit. I held back from letting myself get my hopes up. Later that evening I would whisper to Ryan the rumor, and I said "you know what that would mean?" he tentatively confirmed he understood.  He also didn't want me to get my hopes up, for fear of watching me struggle more wishing I had the Trials standard.

Nolan loved playing on the rocks.

Corra cuddling with Mamaw

Friday the 11th I went out and did a 10 mile tempo run, when I returned, I was talking to my grandma. I saw my phone light up out of the corner of my eye, and went to pick it up. As I looked at my phone, a familiar wave of emotion washed over me. One from the past. The same paralyzing feeling I had when I would watch my little brother, Seth, race. People around would often offer me help.  I knew I would be fine as soon as he finished. The color would come back to my face, and my legs would regain strength.  For whatever reason my heart held his goals very close. Seth hasn't run competitively since he graduated High School, and he is now getting ready to start on his Doctorate degree next year.  I assumed the next time I would feel this way would be when my kids are chasing down their goals.  When I will be the terribly embarrassing mother they wish I wasn't.  Yet here I was, standing in my grandmas kitchen, the walls closing in, my chest heaving, my knees weakening to the point I feared I would fall.  I was standing trackside cheering for my brother, all over again.  I couldn't hold back the sobs.  USATF had adopted the new standard, and through the pixilated backlight of an iPhone I had just become a three time Olympic Trials qualifier.  My grandma looked terrified, as I struggled to speak. I repeated "it's good, it's good".  When I finally could, I explained myself, and grandma hugged me and said she was proud. I called Nicole still tentative to believe what I was reading, and unable to look anything up online.  She confirmed that all of her calls were in fact to congratulate me! I felt altogether full of disbelief. The luckiest girl in the world had struck gold again. My heart hurt for all of the women just on the other side of 2:45, and my face beamed with excitement that I would be lining up next to 4 other CED members (Beth, Jess, Kelsi, and Ellie), as well as former Clevlanders Nicole, Kaitlin, Heidi, and my mom crush, Sarah in Los Angeles.  My dreams were back on track. I wrote in my Grandma's Marathon Race Recap that I wanted a fairytale ending to my last year and a half.  Well I guess fairytales all have struggle, a battle or two, and a plot twist. Turns out mine is was no different.

How my heart felt in my Grandma's kitchen

While I am still reeling with excitement and disbelief, it is time to lace up and train for a marathon (can you even believe this?)!  I have a lot of work to do, but to answer one of the questions a number of people have asked, I am not too far out of things.  I have been running 60-70 miles a week, with 2 workouts, and a long run around 15-16 miles.  So I have a solid base. I am excited to embrace the pain, and fatigue en route to the start line I have dreamed about for nearly 4 years.  I can not wait to enjoy every step in L.A.  When it gets tough out there I will remember what an amazing decision it was to push hard at Columbus, despite knowing things weren't going to plan.  Lesson learned, NEVER GIVE UP!  I am beyond excited for this opportunity!

The start of the 2008 Olympic Trials. I am bib #61

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Getting To Know CED Ellison Style

Meet Ellison

Ellie, Ron, and their family

Here is the 3rd edition of my blog "Getting To Know CED". For those of you who have not read the "Beth" and "Kelsi" editions, here is a quick refresher. CED stands for Cleveland Elite Development. It is a team coached by Glenn Andrews and run by a lot of hard work, big goals, and ladies (mostly) with full time jobs, full time medical school, and a combined total of 7 kids under the age of 9! This week I chatted with Ellie Hess (aka Ellison) about how it all started, and where she hopes to go.

Ellison started "jogging" during her junior year of High School in Mayfield Ohio. She claimed to be running to get in great shape for volleyball, basketball, and softball, while it may have been more to escape some turmoil at home. In her oversized cotton t-shirts (because they were cool back then), basketball shorts in tube socks she would struggle to run sub 8 minutes for a mile to be on the volleyball team. Running was such a passion of her and her teammates that she recalls them building a bridge over a stream to shorten their 2 mile loop their coach made them run. Haha. Ellie is married to her high school sweetheart, Ron and they have 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 8 years old. She is always on the go, and I am always impressed by her seemingly endless energy, and competitive drive. Ellie was a math teacher prior to having kids, and now as a full time mommy Ellie says her family loves to hike, ride bikes, go to the park, and swim. All things I am sure Ellison can turn into a fun, and cut throat competition at any moment!  Ellison found her real passion for running after joining the track team at at John Carroll University her sophomore year, where she became "the most decorated athlete in women's track and field history". Ellie would become a 2 time XC All-American in Cross Country finishing as high as 12th her senior year, and 4 time All-American in Track (in individual events) where she would finish 3rd, 5th and 2nd her sophomore, Junior, and Senior years respectively in the 3k steeple, and 3rd in the 5k. After a long hiatus from training to start her and Ron's family Ellie decided to come back to run competitively. She joined CED.  

Ellison's PR's

3k steeple- 10:23
8k- 27:45
10k- 35:11
1/2 Marathon- 1:17:50
Marathon- 2:42:48

Ellie ran her first marathon this fall in Columbus, she ran a fast enough debut to qualify to the 2016 Olympic Trials. I caught up with her and here is what she had to say.

Ellie competing in the Steeple while at John Carroll

Q. What brought you to join CED? 
A. "After my youngest turned 1, I felt like I was getting in pretty good shape.  Before considering having another baby, I wanted to race (not just run) the Akron Half marathon.  I was hoping to join the team for workouts, but, with 4 small kids and a busy husband, I wasn’t sure I could commit to really being a member of the team. I told my husband that I would join for the 8(?)weeks leading up to the half marathon, then we could consider another baby. A year and half and plenty more races (no baby) later, I’m still here…clearly I love being a part of this team!!"

Q. How do you think being a member of CED is beneficial in helping you to 
meet your goals? 

A. "I thrive on the group dynamic.  I love people and being a part of a team. I truly never thought I’d get this opportunity again after college. I am so inspired by my teammates and seeing their successes makes me hungry for more. It also helps that the members of CED are not only awesome runners, but awesome people too!"

Q. What are those goals?  

A. "Currently, I’m trying to get ready for the Olympic Trials.  I’d love to run a PR!  Long term, I just hope to stay healthy and keep training and setting PRs while I’m young enough to do so."

Q. What types of workouts are your favorite and why? 

A. "Hmmmm, above all I don’t like to work out alone. I think I prefer track workouts over tempos. I like the control and predictability of the track. When I run a tempo I’m so worried about my pace and if the GPS is wrong or if I will lose too much time up a hill. I feel much more relaxed on the track."

Q. What types of workouts are the hardest to you, and why do you still suffer through them? 

A. "I don’t love long tempos with no pace changes or breaks.  I’m not good at zoning out, I get bored and distracted! Also, I struggle to run more than 10 miles without company these days!"

Q. If you could go back and meet yourself your sophomore year in college what wisdom would you impart on yourself as an athlete? 

A. "Your body can do more than your mind thinks it can – don’t be a wuss!"

Q. What is your favorite race?  Why?  What mental tips can you offer for racing this distance well?  Any specific training workouts or block of workouts that you think make you well prepared to tackle this distance fast? 

A. "I LOVED the steeple chase in college! I’m not sure any race now can compare to the fun I had racing the steeple chase. I loved the thrill of the water jump, the hurdles and surging in between.  Oh man, I am not qualified to give any running advice.  I like to be told what to do! The best advice I can offer is 'find a good coach'"

Q. What do you think about when you run?  

A. "I am a very transparent person, so sometimes I talk without thinking first.  When I run, I analyze past conversations and realize that my word choices may not have matched what I was intending to say.  So I spend a lot of time wondering if I’ve offended people over the past 24 hours and whether I should apologize!  When I run in the morning I think about what I need to accomplish that day – try to keep my kids calendars straight and stuff like that. I get a big time runner’s high, so I usually end my run on very happy things…thinking about how much I love the people in my life and how lucky I am."

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the Columbus Marathon, and what it felt like to cross the line in Columbus knowing you had qualified to the Olympic Trials?

A. "The Columbus Marathon was a crazy, amazing, terrifying, painful, and

stressful experience!  It was my first marathon, so I didn’t quite understand what I was in for, but I had a LOT of respect for what goes into a 26.2 mile race.  Truly, advice from my teammates was almost as important as my training leading up to it.  Nutritional preparation, pacing strategy, and general counseling on how my mental and physical state would fluctuate was so helpful.
To describe how it felt to cross the finish, I really should start with how I was feeling after the first half of the race. We had a fantastic group through about mile 16.  I really thought, at the half way point, that the OTQ was in the bag.  Then our group dissolved and mile 18 hit me like a ton of bricks.  My pace slowed from 6:0? to 6:20.  Mile 19 was 6:32.  Seeing an old friend, Dara Ford, picked me up and I squeaked out a 6:07 and a 6:05 (20 and 21).  I started passing some guys and feeling good. Then mile 22 was a painful 6:14.  I was scared and running with everything I had, and with no idea if I had banked enough time or not.  Mile 23 was 6:09. At this point my body is screaming.  I want to be done.  The bottoms of my feet are aching and I’m running though mud.  Mile 24 is 6:27 which scares me more. Then 6:30 for mile 25. I feel like the OTQ must be slipping away but I can see Sara up ahead (she was running in 2nd place and had broken away from our pack around mile 17) and people are telling me I can pass her.  So, I push ahead and do so. Half a mile to go and I am terrified.  I can’t tell how fast I'm going but it is as fast as I can go and I have no idea if I will make it in time.  A quarter of a mile to go and I see Justin screaming in my face, "dont look at your watch, RUN," so I book it. I see the clock counting down at the finish, no sense of how fast I'm actually moving just hoping I can beat it...then I do. What a freaking relief!  I close my eyes and melt into the guy at the finish and end up in a wheelchair.    
So many emotions! Of course, I was relieved, but I also felt incredibly lucky.  I made it by 12 seconds, half a second per mile.  Just thinking about that makes my stomach churn.  I had spent the last 30ish minutes completely uncertain of whether or not I would run under 2:43 until the moment I crossed the line.  So it didn’t even register with me at first. Once I got back in the tent I called my husband and my kids and I could stop the tears.  
I knew I worked hard to get here, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was luck that I qualified - almost like I didn’t deserve it because it was so close.  I could have just as easily run 12 seconds too slow.  Either way, here I am, and I am incredibly grateful.  AND I plan to work my ass off to run as well as I can in February!"  

Ellie and I competing at the Columbus marathon (Ellie in pink bra, ear band, and blue shoes), where she would punch her ticket to the 2016 Olympic Trials running a 2:42:48 debut. 

We are very glad Ellie decided to stick around after the Akron half marathon, She offers us a lot of no BS as she is never one to miss miles or a workout despite juggling a very busy schedule. We can count on Ellie to always come through the first split of any workout ahead of the goal time...well ahead of the goal time, and she will ALWAYS remind us to "suck it up" if we are being a wuss. Ellie is the most overtly competitive runner of the group and we love her for it! Thank you for all your "WTF's" and "get over yourself's", our group is stronger because of you! You deserve to be on the starting line at the trials, and we can't wait to see what you are capable of! Ellison will be racing the Olympic Trials alongside the other 3 members of CED who have qualified in February. We will all be cheering for a new PR and a maybe even a dip under 2:40!?!

Ellie competing for CED at Club Nats XC 2014

Stay tuned to my blog to get to know more CED'ers, and follow them chasing dreams on the roads of Los Angeles this February!

Follow Ellie via Social Media
Facebook- Ellie Hess
Instagram- elliehess44

Monday, November 30, 2015

Getting To Know CED Kelsi Style

Meet Kelsi Nutter

Kelsi, being a goofball with boyfriend Michael

Kelsi started running in 7th grade when she joined the track team in her hometown of Painesville Ohio, where she ran for Gilmour Academy. When asked about her early days running Kelsi says "I thought I was going to be an Olympian in the 200 because I was the only 7th grader on the 4x200 meter relay! I joined the cross country team the following spring to "stay in shape for track".  I'm not convinced I loved distance running at the time, but I liked being good at something so I kept at it!"
She continued running in college at Wright State University.  While at Wright State fate intervened and brought Kelsi and I together.   I became her coach her senior year of college. Kelsi tested me, and was the first athlete on the team I would have to yell at. When I arrived at Wright State, Kelsi was struggling to run under 22 minutes for 5k. I knew she was much better than that, and tried to instill confidence in her ability.  One year later when she won her heat of the 5k at All-Ohio in 18:41, I cried like a fool. Kelsi is currently in her first year of podiatry school, loves beer, coffee, and hanging out with her "awesome nieces".

Since Wright State, Kelsi has continued running and joined CED in 2013.  Since joining, she has run a PR for every distance, and has qualified to the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon. 

Kelsi's PR's
3k- 9:49
8k- 27:30
Half Marathon- 1:17:05
Marathon- 2:41:28

Kelsi Breaking 3 hours for the first time at the Boston Marathon. 

I asked Kelsi a few questions about where she is now, how she got there, and her goals. 

Q. Kelsi, what brought you to join CED?

"It's actually a small world! Becki Spellman was my coach in college and is legitimately the only reason I am still running today.  She somehow encouraged me to stick with it despite having only broken 19 minutes in the 5k one time!

When I moved back to Ohio after 2 years in Boston, I wanted to take running a little more seriously so I reached out to Becki to see if she happened to know anyone I could train with. Little did I know, she was living in Cleveland and said I should check out CED!

After talking with all of the girls about Glenn's coaching and their experience with CED, I knew I had a big decision.  They ALL were faster now than in college, something I never thought was possible.  I had to ask myself if I wanted to continue as a mediocre runner, or if I wanted to take a chance to try to be my best.  Since glenn and becki had faith in me, I knew I should have a little faith in myself, so I joined!"

Q. How do you think being a member of CED is beneficial in helping you to meet your goals?
"Every single athlete on CED is an inspiration to me and motivates me to be my best.  Additionally, Glenn pushes us to our limits and never lets us settle.  Without them, I would have no idea what potential I had and I would have no idea how to push myself and dig down deep.

Glenn and these ladies strive for greatness on a daily basis and it's contagious! You can't be around them and not want to be a better runner."

Q. What are those goals?  

"I never thought in a zillion years I would be competing in the Olympic Trials. With the trials in February 2016, my short term goal is to stay healthy and happy in training so I can run a sizable PR in February!

Long term - Keep on loving the sport!  The sustainability in this sport makes me really nervous.  When you compete at a certain level and experience certain successes, you want those feelings to last forever. Sadly, they don't.  As you age, there's a natural regression in race results.  I'm 26 so I know I have a little while, but a long term goal is not to be selfish and be grateful for all of the opportunities I've had.  When the improvements stop (and hopefully they never do ;)) I want to still love running and all it has done for me."

Q. What types of workouts are your favorite and why?

"Oh gosh! It depends on the training cycle I am in.  My last big training cycle I loved the long (10 mile) unbroken tempos.  If I was going to race a marathon, I knew I had to build strength- mentally and physically.  Fortunately, Glenn is a genius coach and knew that to build that strength weekly 10 milers at marathon pace were a necessity.

Each week I felt stronger and more confident.  When I finally got on the line at Grandmas, I knew that I was the strongest I had been from those tempos. It's really hard to focus that long! So it was good to practice focusing and working hard for extended periods of time."

Q. What types of workouts are the hardest to you, and why do you still suffer through them?

"Long runs! Even easy day long runs have always been a challenge for me.  I would venture to say it's the monotony of the long run that I struggle with.  I suffer through them because I've never heard of someone being a successful distance runner without the weekly long run.  Doing things you find challenging builds character.  That's at least what I tell myself when I'm lacking motivation."

Q. If you could go back and meet yourself your sophomore year in HS, what wisdom would you impart on yourself as an athlete?

"Probably something along the lines of "SUCK IT UP", compliments of Ellie. But seriously,  the daily grind can sometimes seem like "too much" or a "waste of time" but the daily grind is what makes the difference between good and great. I would tell myself to "run hard and run long.  But never outrun your love for running"."

Q. What is your favorite race?  Why?  What mental tips can you offer for racing this distance well?  Any specific training workouts or block of workouts that you think make you well prepared to tackle this distance fast?

"I might be a little bias, but I would have to say the marathon is my favorite because my best training and racing experience came during the marathon.  I learned so much about myself and mental toughness during training.  Glenn had us do 10 mile unbroken tempos week after week after week to really get into the groove of longer efforts at marathon pace.  This made me mentally and physically stronger each week. I got to the starting line ready to zone out and focus for 26.2 mile."

Q. What do you think about when you run?  Everyone asks, so we might as well share!

"People do love this question! High mileage = lots of time to think. I think that's what makes runners so special.  We think A LOT and I like to tell myself that's what makes us so insightful ;) My boyfriend gets nervous when I get home from a run and say, "you know what I was thinking?!".  He knows something really silly or crazy is about to come out of my mouth.

Since I am in podiatry school, I spend a lot of time studying.  When I get out for a run I like to review the things I studied that day.

I also like to reflect on workouts and recent races.  Sometimes when I'm having a bad stretch of training, I like to think about the moment I felt after I reached a goal.  It helps remind me why I do this (sometimes) tortuous sport and give me perspective.

I also like to think about ways to save and rule the world... Although I'm still working on the details of that."

Kelsi (3rd from left) a member of the 3200m State Championship team in 2007 (9:13 for a state record at the time)

Kelsi Racing as a Wright State Raider

Kelsi racing XC along side CED teammate Beth Herndon

Kelsi moments after becoming a 2016 Olympic Trials Qualifier

I know I speak for all of CED in saying that Kelsi has helped us to reach our goals and have no excuses!  She has come so far in the past 2 years despite having full plate outside of training. She keeps us laughing, and hands us our butts if were not ready to go in a workout or race. Kelsi, I couldn't be more proud of you! CED is lucky to have you as a member!  I can't wait to watch you chase down another PR in Los Angeles this February!   

Follow Kelsi on Social Media
Facebook- Kelsi Nutter
Twitter- @kelsimarie13
Instagram- Kelsi_marie1

Check out my blog soon for the next edition of "Getting To Know CED" next time it will be Ellison Style! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Getting To Know CED Beth Style

Meet Beth Herndon

Beth and husband Greg

Cleveland Elite Development, "CED", is a group from the greater Cleveland area that was set up by Glenn Andrews a number of years ago. This is the group I run for, and love every step I have shared with them. Glenn is our coach and in the upcoming weeks I want to give you all a chance to meet the wonderful, weird, strong, passionate ladies and gentlemen that comprise our incredible group.  We laugh, we have fun, and we work hard to reach some pretty ambitious goals. "Misery loves company" holds very true to our hearts as we chase down PR's, Olympic Trials qualifying times, and even a World Record.  Speaking of world records, I would like to introduce you all to our World Record the Beer Mile, Beth Herndon.

Beth winning the "Beer Mile World Championships" in a world record 6:17
Beth grew up in a place called "Fort Fun" undoubtedly named after her.  It is more commonly known as Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Beth started running in 6th grade for the social aspect, Beth grew up around running with her parents both running and coaching. She played soccer her freshman and sophomore years in high school, but found her talents really lied in running. I am very glad she did because CED wouldn't be the same without her! She went on from Snider High School to compete for Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a two time UAA Conference Champion, and a 2 time All American placing 11th and 5th in the National XC Championship in '05 and '06 respectively. Beth is currently a professor in the Geology Department at Kent State University.  When there is time for some fun she says her and her husband, Greg, love to eat good food, drink good beer, and they enjoy biking, hiking, and canoeing. 

Beth's PR's
Mile- 5:03
Beer Mile -6:17
3k -9:52
10k- 35:34
Half Marathon- 1:15:43
Marathon- 2:39:43

I asked Beth some questions, and here is what she had to say.

Q.What Brought you to join CED?

A. "I moved to northeast Ohio in August 2014 to start a faculty position at Kent State University. Before moving, my husband and I visited the area and stopped by a local running store (Second Sole - Akron) to get the inside scoop on the running scene. We had the incredible fortune of meeting the one and only Becki Spellman there, who immediately asked me my marathon PR and then told me to join CED. Needless to say, I did!"

Q. How do you think being a member of CED is beneficial in helping you to meet your goals?

A. "CED has really benefited my training in three ways. First, weekly track workouts hold me accountable. No matter how busy things are at work, I drop everything and go to the track on Tuesday - no excuses. Second, I haven't had such a large group of equally-fit people to train with since college. Our workouts have pushed me to go faster than I thought possible. Finally, CED is just such an incredible group of people, and being around them has bolstered my attitude during what could have been a tough transition to a new home." 

Q. What are those goals?

A. "I am always striving to be a better runner. I don't know what that limit is, but I will chip away at my PRs for as long as I can. Short-term, I'm training for the Olympic marathon trials and would love to run 2:37 or faster, but ultimately I'm going out there to compete."

Q. What types of workouts are your favorite and why?

A. "I have a soft spot for long, half-marathon paced workouts. Something like 6 x mile or 4 x 2 mi that gets you in that steady zone of effort without dropping into 5k-10k pace (which I consider to be very speedy). Just not on the track, please."

Q. What types of workouts are the hardest for you, and why do you suffer through them?

A.  "I suffer through the 1k-2k length repeats at 5k pace. If my teammates were slower, maybe I wouldn't suffer so much. 400 m repeats I can wrap my head around...even 800 m is okay, but there's a sweet spot of agony before I reach my slow/long comfort zone." 

Q. Do you have a favorite running quote and if so what is it?

A. " 'From now on, I'll connect the dots my own way.'
Not a running quote, but a good philosophy for life. I can be pretty obstinate at times." 

Q. If you could go back and meet yourself your sophomore year in HS what wisdom would your impart on yourself as an athlete?

A . "You are capable of more than you think right now! Also, stop eating that low-calorie crap food. Just eat good food." 

Q. What is your favorite race? Why? What mental tips can you offer for racing this distance well?

A.  "I love the half-marathon. It suits my long-distance inclinations, but I can still walk afterwards. I think consistent 2 hour long runs are a key component of being race ready for the half. Add to that a weekly track session (e.g., 5 x 1200 m is a killer) and tempo (3 or 4 x 10 min) and you'll be good to go! During the race, it helps to key into a pace and stay consistent through the first half. Then I like to push the pace down as far as I can go..."turning the screws" if you will."

Q. What do you think about during all those 90+ mile weeks while running?

A. "I think through problems, but I'm not sure I reach any solutions. It's easy to let your mind wander through a run, but hard to get it to do anything useful." 

Beth competing for Washington University in St. Louis 

Look at that smile!  What's not to love?!

Beth competing for CED at USA Club National XC 2014

Beth has become an integral part of our team in more ways than I can count.  She keeps us in line, makes us laugh, is good at reminding us to be smart, and has crushed some new PR's along the way.  I am glad my creepy questioning brought you to see the true beauty that is Cleveland Elite Development. Look for Beth, one of CED's four athletes, competing in the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles this February!  We can't wait to watch her chase down that 2:37!  We love you Beth. 

Follow Beth on social media
Twitter - emh824

Monday, October 19, 2015

Columbus Marathon Recap

When training for a season there are often a number of races on your horizon, and many opportunities to race fast, while gaining fitness. Training for cross country or track is often train, race, train, race, train, race repeat.  Training and racing a marathon is very different from that. We choose the marathon race many months out, and then set off with a single minded goal for that race. One day, one shot. We pound out thousands of seemingly endless miles, long tempo runs that deplete our bodies to prepare them for the fat burning necessary and specific to being able to run 26.2 miles at full throttle. We maintain some speed work and hill work to deal with the undulation in terrain that we will experience. We obsess over what the right race day fuel will be. We practice it, edit, and try again until we find the perfect balance that will settle with our stomachs, and provide us with the proper amount of energy to ward off total glycogen depletion, and teach our bodies to run well and fast within those perimeters. We do long runs to feel that glycogen depletion and teach ourselves to run while empty. We don't race, aside from a possible tune up here or there. Those tune ups are marathon specific, all with the goal of running fast on one day.  In June my teammate Ellison and I committed to the Columbus Marathon, D-day would be October 18th, and the upcoming months of preparation would all focus on this one day.  The miles that seemed endless came to a screeching halt about 2 weeks out with a week of 60 miles and a week of 30 miles. I felt like I had too much time on my hands, and I struggled to sleep with the new found energy that tapering unleashes. My easy days felt short, and my workouts felt easy. I knew I was fit. 

On October 18th I woke at 4:30 am to get a little breakfast of a bagel and peanut butter. A breakfast I had eaten a number of times before big workouts to practice race day. I filled my Oiselle Tracktion bra with 4 Lemonade Rocktane Gu's, and bundled up in layers to stay warm. It was only 28 degrees at 5:30 when Nicole, Ryan, my parents and grandpa left the house for the start line. A bunch of thin, nervous, single minded runners filled the elite staging area, and I met up with Ellison and Brandon Bauer as we went through the race plan one last time. We did a short 10 min jog warm up and put on our racing flats. 10 minutes prior to the start we were lead to the line, where everyone found a place for one last nervous pee, and did a couple of strides. I felt excitement knowing the day I had hoped for was here. The weather was cold, but darn near perfect. I gave my mom a quick hug, and took my place on the start line. 

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..Bang we were on our way to chasing our goal! The first 2 miles are slow (uphill) Bauer reminded us. 6:00-well thats not slow at all, and that felt beyond easy, we eased up to get closer to the goal of 6:15ish we had planned. 6:11 through the 2nd mile felt like we were crawling.  We had a good group of Bauer, Ryan, Ellison, Sara, myself, and a few others. 6:02 through the 3rd mile came quickly and was a nice long down. 

Our group at mile 3 getting our split. 

6:09 through mile 4 with some banter, and feeling like we kept slowing down to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves. I took half a gu, and washed it down with a swig of water. Mile 5 was 6:15 coming back up the same long hill we came down at 3. I just knew it was going to be a great day for all 3 of us ladies. We were clearly comfortable and well within ourselves. We were relying on one another to maintain pace and keep it appropriate.  6:12 for mile 6 felt easy again. We knew we should stay easy as we were around a lot of spectators and our goal of sub 2:43 seemed more and more within our grasp. mile 7- 6:19 Perfect that felt too easy. mile 8 through 12 flew by in 6:08, 6:10, 6:07, 6:11, and 6:16. 

Our group still intact mid race

As we approached half way I did a little math to see where we were 1:20:53 on the clock meant we could run 6:16 pace for the remainder of the race and still be in under the 2:43 Olympic trials standard (mile 13 was 6:07).  6:17 through 14 with a decent uphill had me feeling excited. Stay relaxed for 6 more miles and its 10k to go I thought. 6:08, 6:16, 6:19, and 5:57 saw Ryan drop off and let us go around 16 and brought us through 18 miles. Then Sara took off. She was flying.  She looked like she was running an all out 10k.  I was impressed. We came around a hair pin turn and blipped up onto the bike path. My leg jammed into the ground and I thought for a moment I would fall. But I didn't. I tried to get moving back up the hill, and my legs were feeling wobbly and fatigued. The Treier Cheer Section was waiting for me at the top of the hill and gave me some much needed energy. 6:32 through mile 19.  I reminded myself to stay in the mile I was in and pushed as hard as I could for the 20 mile marker.  I hoped it would be faster. 6:20 for mile 20. 'Get to mile 21 as quickly as you can. Don't think further than the mile you are in" I reminded myself. Mile 21-  6:25 "Just keep pushing" I reminded myself. "No REGRETS!"  I needed a bathroom, but stopping would give me an excuse to say "well I could have, I would have if I didn't... NO!  I will not stop!" I made an embarrassing mess that would run down my leg and ruin my briefs and calf sleeves. Worth it. Mile 22-6:23 I began trying to do the math to see if I would be able to still hit the standard. I couldn't do the math so I reminded myself "NO REGRETS" I saw Kelsi and Beth and tried to stay tough, though I thought I might cry for a second.  Mile 23- 6:36 "NO EXCUSES, just keep pushing maybe it will be there". Mile 24- 6:41"I won't give up, I can do this, just keep working the finish line is so close". Mile 25- 6:51 I didn't look at this split, and just kept pushing for the finish line I saw Nicole and Ryan and hoped they could see I was doing all I could to get this done. I prayed Ellison was still crushing the miles before me. Mile 26- 6:30, the finish line was closing in and I saw 2:40:30 as I was approaching. I crossed under the line 2:44:44. 1 minute and 44 seconds too slow.  I was somehow still happy. I met 3 of my 4 goals on the day. Goal 1 was to be under 2:43 and that goal slipped away somewhere around mile 22. Goal 2 was to run SMART- I did this, I felt I ran perfect to set myself up for goal #1 without running myself into the ground too early. Goal 3 was never to get too high or too low about a split and keep working as hard as I could in the rough miles, staying 100% mentally focused on the race. I was thrilled with the way I handled the hard miles, I never gave in for a second, I never lost focus of the goal, and I had NO regrets or excuses! Goal 4 run faster than 2:47:35, my time at Grandmas- crushed this. I had run my fastest marathon in 6 years and remained tough when in the past I would have given in. 

I quickly learned Ellison did it. She went 2:42:48 and was going to the Olympic Trials. Sara had run a solid debut finishing 3rd in 2:43:40 the same time I ran in my debut marathon! I cried when Ryan walked up to me. Mostly out of fatigue, a little out of knowing I had been so close, and still so far away from 2:43. My stomach was a mess and I needed to clean up. Once I was back in the elite athlete area I rested and got a quick post race massage. I was feeling really really bad. We went to meet up with the family and I started shaking and feeling very sick. So we slowly walked to the car and I couldn't wait to get warm. After some rest and water I was feeling much better aside from incredible soreness around 3 p.m. 

A lot of people have suggested I try again at CIM, but that isn't going to be a smart endeavor for me. With only 7 weeks to race day, there is no way of recovering properly and being ready to give it another crack. So the plan is to work on some speed and if I can make it happen in a half marathon between now and the trials I will be stoked, if I can't I look forward to some fast times this spring on the track and roads at shorter distances. Who knows maybe a trials qualifier on the track is something attainable. 

It is a hard pill to swallow that 6:16 pace for 26 miles isn't enough.  That I gave it my all, and it wasn't fast enough to earn my spot. But my career is far from over and my passion is burning as hot as ever. So I will recover and train with resolve toward the next goal. Wether I am or am not on the start line in February, Ill be chasing the 2020 qualifier all the same.  My best races are before me, and I know I am stronger after this one!  Thank you all for your support!  Thank you for coming to Columbus to cheer for me! Thank you for your kind words, your encouragement and the unwavering faith you all show in me to chase after my passion. You make every step worth my while. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chances Are...

Race week is quickly approaching! I can't believe how quickly the past few months have passed.  I remember doing a short run with Kelsi Nutter back on June 18th in Duluth, and talking about how in 2 days I just needed to get the trials qualifier for fear of having to run another marathon this fall. Two days later, I raced like a fool. I watched the wheels come off earlier than they ever had before during Grandma's Marathon, I crossed the finish line a full 4 and a half minutes off the standard.  I knew I had a whole lot of work to do prior to running Columbus in a few months. 
Finishing Grandmas in 2:47 with a heavy heart and mind.
Thinking of all the work I had yet to do to attain my goal was overwhelming. About a month after Grandmas we made a move with our family to Columbus Ohio.  It was hard to leave behind my favorite trails, a job, family, friends, and my Cleveland Elite Development teammates. Knowing I would have less support, and having to do my long runs and workouts alone felt overwhelming.  I crumbled.  For 2 weeks I struggled. How was I going to pull of training to run faster with less? I focused on the negative, what I didn't have, rather than what I did.  I went to Akron a August 15th to race the Rubber City Series 10k. I felt completely wore out. I warmed up with my teammates, happy to have them by my side again. But the 2 weeks prior had gotten the best of me. I ran 2 miles and scrapped the race. The first DNF I have had since the Twin Cities Marathon in 2008, when I had a broken foot, and dropped out shortly after mile 11. 

I knew I had to do something, and now! So I made a decision. Let this go!  I reminded myself how many miles I had run in the past alone, how much my teammates, friends and family support me even if I am not right next to them.  I promised myself, no more sulking. It was now or never if I was going to show up in Columbus ready to race. It was time to grind out miles. Juggling being a mom while running 90 miles a week was still hard, but choosing to let go of feeling like I was losing something, and embracing my current situation proved to be a huge step forward.  My training turned around, my fatigue levels changed. Yes I was still tired, but I didn't feel like I was under some cloud.  This was a choice. I was going to train hard, and come out the other side stronger. My husband and kids deserve a happy mom and wife, and I won't settle for being unhappy. 
My adorable family
Since Grandmas I have run just over 1000 miles and have only 60 or so to go to the start line on October 18th.  My workouts have gone very well, and my attitude has significantly changed. I am excited to race next week, and I feel that the miles and workouts alone have made me all the stronger, and somehow better able to handle the challenge before me. Not only in running, but as a mom, wife, friend, and family member. As far as the race goes, I am going to race a bit smarter this time, and hold myself accountable for every mile.  I know that my fitness has improved, and I am ready for this challenge. 26.2 miles will never be easy, it won't give me any favors, and I will have to take what I have worked for. My mantra is the same, I am STRONG, I am SMART. My goal is the same, qualify to the Olympic Trials. As far as a person goes, I am going to enjoy things. Not let worry steal my joy, and while this will always be something for me to overcome, I don't want to get in the way of my own, nor my family's happiness any longer. 
The goal- get back to the Olympic Trials (this is a pic from 2012)
I have said this before and I will say it again.  "Am I excited?  Yes.  Nervous?  I hope so. Scared? Never!  All the miles, all the tears, all the times I wanted to give in, but wouldn't let my mind win. My legs have done it a thousand times.  Now I run with intelligence, and heart. After all, chances are the fascination." It's almost time to put my hard work to the test.  I am excited to do it next to Ellie next weekend!  If you are in the Columbus area please come cheer us on.  If not please follow us, and cheer from wherever you are!  We appreciate all the support. Running wouldn't be what it is without the amazing people we have around us.  It's race time!   

Ellie, (also known in my blog as Ellison) is in the middle, and we get to tackle Columbus together!