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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!