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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!

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