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Thursday, February 27, 2020

The NoTQ: Thoughts from a 2:45+

This weekend, I will be in Atlanta for the 2020 USA Olympic Marathon Trials. Last week, I told a good friend of mine that I was making the trek down, to which she replied, "Jen, are you okay??" Some may look at my going to Atlanta as self-destructive behavior...Like, running in this race was your dream that failed to come to fruition, so why would you put yourself through just watching it??

Here's the thing though...I'm more than okay.  I'm FREAKING FANTASTIC.

"Life doesn't guarantee that hard work will equal victory. I do the work because I want to see the best that's within me. I'm humbled by where my work has taken me. I'm humbled and I'm grateful. My hope and prayer for each of you is that you choose a healthy path, dig in when it gets hard, and scream and shout when it all pays off." - Jenny Simpson

Jenny (Barringer) Simpson is a 1500-meter world champion and former American record holder in the 3000-meter steeplechase.  She's also a runner I've followed since her high school career, as I was always enamored by the genuine excitement she'd exude upon crossing a finish line.  She oozed passion for the sport and still does to this day.  So, the fact that 1) I met her a couple of weeks ago, and 2) this quote of hers happened to appear in my Facebook feed the following week, struck me as a sign and delivered an epiphany...

Just because I (and many other men and women for that matter) did not qualify for this ONE day, doesn't mean that we're not capable.  Circumstances change... i.e. injury, weather, illness.  Amy Cragg, who won the 2016 Trials and went on to finish 9th in the 2016 Rio Olympics, is no longer competing this weekend after battling mono and fatigue.  Does that suck?  Sure does.  But does it mean that she wouldn't have gone on to finish in the top three and therefore head to her second straight Olympic marathon?  Nope.  Not at all.

So this is what helps me get by... knowing that I was (and still am!) more than capable.  Just because I'm not competing on this one day this weekend doesn't mean that I couldn't have been.  I know I was ready.  And I'm more than okay with that now.

Obtaining my "NoTQ", as I've joked about now for weeks (if you're not following, that's a No OTQ), has taught me a lot about myself...  

* It's taught me how strong my passion for this sport truly is.  Just because I didn't hit the time standard doesn't make me want to go back out there and run any less.  I'm appreciative to enjoy the process more than the actual competition, as I think it would be a lot harder if it were the other way around.

* It's taught me that allowing myself more flexibility instead of a rigid training regimen can actually yield the same, if not better, results.  After taking time off to allow my calf to heal, I started running again for about 5-6 weeks before I was set to run on a marathon relay team.  Without a ton of training, I assumed I would, well, suck, but I surprised myself in performing and feeling much better than anticipated.  Honestly?  The fun environment and low expectation mindset was HUGE.  Since then, I've made up my workouts as I go, and I don't plan to be "rigid" again anytime soon.

* It's taught me...and hopefully my kids...that "failure" can actually equate to success sometimes.  After all, the best view typically comes after the hardest climb!

The best relay team in the world after winning the Valentine's Massacre Marathon Relay!


Jenny and I at the Camel City Elite meet in Winston-Salem.  She won the 3,000 meters in a new flat track world record of 8:51.

So yes, this weekend, I'm heading to Atlanta as an excited running junkie that has even entered a Trials fantasy marathon competition (and yes, I want to win that sucker...don't worry, I have not lost my competitive juices ;)).  I'm going with two other gal pals, who are also in the same boat...they're more than capable of having run 2:45, but circumstances steered them onto a different path.  For now...    

Yes, for now...  So when the circumstances actually have it that it's my day, like Jenny always does at the end of her races, I will 100% scream and shout as I watch and feel it all pay off.

Best of luck to all racing this weekend! 

Elle (whose day is also coming) and I, here with Paul Chelimo (Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000 meters) will be cheering BIG for this gal here on the right.  Adriana, go get 'em, girl!  

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Unbroken

After Indy and then realizing I wouldn't able to take another stab at an OTQ in Houston, I felt a little lost.  Yes, I accepted where I was, but it was kind of like, WAIT...did that actually just happen?  I trained how much?  But I don't have any race results to show for it?  Hrmpffff.  The best way to describe how I felt was embarrassed at myself and, well, broken.

I ended up taking three full weeks off from running.  I was good about cross-training for five days until I then became really bad about cross-training for 16 days.  I was bored.  I was resentful.  I wanted to get away from it.  So I did.

Luckily, it was a distraction-full time of year with Logan's birthday, Christmas, holiday shindigs, and New Year's.  I also started waking up at 4:30am each day to have some calm solo time spent guzzling coffee and watching Hallmark movies before the daily tornado started.  I drank a lot of wine, ate a lot of sh*t, didn't think about racing, and you know what? ...I enjoyed every freaking second of it. 

My first run back was three miles.  I wondered if some of the discomfort still in my calf was the tear not being fully healed or just scar tissue messing with me, so I took it really easy for a couple of weeks and continued with ART and laser therapy all the while. (Digression Alert! --->)  Don't ya wish our bodies came with zippers sometimes so that we could just take a peek and know stuff for sure??  So yeah, here I am, five-ish weeks later, pain-free, having hit a 60-mile week last week, and looking ahead...

For so long, I was dedicated to ONE goal.  ...one freaking deadline goal that saw me document every training day in nerd-like fashion, hammer numerous workouts solo for fear of getting off pace if I did them with others, and (Irony Alert! --->) skip even the thought of doing any other races for fear. of. injury.

Since being back running again, I haven't written any runs down, I've hardly run solo, and I've signed up for five races in 2020 already.  I'm having fun.  Maybe I'm being a little bit of a jacka$$ too, but (Oxymoron Alert! --->) a smart jacka$$ nonetheless.  Don't get me wrong, I love training hard (seriously, like 1000x more than the racing part), and I really loved training towards the OTQ, but there is so much more to love about running.  Having been so laser-focused on that one goal, I now want to experience it ALL.  I'd like to target PRs in other distances, and yes, I'll still plan to run at least one marathon this year but with no time goal in mind other than racing the sh*t out of it.  I qualified for the masters-high-performance-American Development-Program at Chicago, or as I like to call it, the f'ing old hag ADP division, so I may end up there.  And yes, I'm officially a master this year.  What?  Shut up.

Last weekend, I did my first true speedy anything since before Indy... a 3-mile tempo within an 11-mile run.  I averaged 6:04 pace, which I'm happy with, even though I felt like my lungs were seriously going to collapse.  Before Indy, I did this same 3-miler twice in the middle of a 16-mile run at 5:57 average, feeling like I could have kept going forever.  So, yeah, my fitness has a ways to come back yet, but it felt awesome, I feel happy, I feel alive, and I feel, well, unbroken in so many ways.  


Onward!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Acceptance

Nitroglycerin, dry needles, ART, lasers, Addaday, compression, CBD oil*, Bengay** ... all the things.   GAHH!  All the damn things!

* I cannot believe I went there...

 ** I didn't even know they still made this shit until I found a tube (umm, from 2012) buried in the back of our guest bathroom drawer.  ...and to which I then said, "why not?", lathered it on, aaaaand yeah no...  it didn't work.

Well, I tried.  I've been running easy for two weeks per doc's orders, doing all the above, all the while in denial.  My calf will feel decent the day after treatment, but then it basically goes back to square one.  Then some days would feel better than others, which would give me hope, but then would be followed by a day of utter limp-a-gimp, which would lead to this:

         I bet you can't eat as much peanut butter oreo pie as me in one sitting...

One day last week after a particularly painful run, I decided to throw in the towel, only to wake up the next day mad at myself for giving up, and I therefore went out for an 8-mile run.  I impulsively and officially committed to the Houston Marathon on January 19th (one day before the Olympic Trials qualification period closes), making it real.  I was still going to do this!!  I then ran eight miles two more days in a row, fooling myself.  

A few days later, after a lot of wine and tears (it's funny how calf tears... "tay-yuhrs" and crying tears..."tee-yuhrs" are spelled the same...or maybe it's not funny, and now that I'm not running, I have too much time to think of this kind of stupid shit), I'm finally at a place of acceptance, and I think writing it down helps in that...  

Every day that I do not rest right now is a day longer in my healing process.  Ultimately, I love to run, and I want to run for the rest of my life.  Running in pain, however, is not what I want to associate with my love for running.  I do want to prove to myself that I could have done it though.  I don't know why, but it just drives me.  Qualifying to run in the 2020 Olympic Trials on February 29th will not be in my cards, but when I'm 100% healthy and am able to train and love it again, I'm going to go for the qualifying time on my own timeline.        

I wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.
Happy pie eating running!

So much to be thankful for ...



Thankful to celebrate Mike's big 4-0 in the mountains

Thankful for a job I love ...my Streakers finished this season with lots of PRs at the 
Greensboro Half Marathon.

Thankful for my eldest... Logan lost his first tooth!  He turns six this month.

Thankful for my first and forever friend from Greensboro, Emily.  She was back visiting after moving to Texas this summer.  Logan was very happy to see Wit.

 Thankful that my family came to celebrate Thanksgiving 
(and got home safely in a CT snowstorm)

Thankful for Thanksgiving with family and friends

 Thankful for friends that remind me it's okay to grieve something you've worked hard for, despite the fact that there are people going through much bigger hardships


Thankful for my baby... Cooper turned three!

Thankful for friends with whom I can share the triumphs and heartbreaks

Thankful to be healthy enough to try new things, even if they bore me to tee-yuhrs.  :)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Indy 2019


What do you do after you DNF a race you've been training your keister off for six months?

Shots.  You do shots...


Okay, just kidding.  Well, I'm not really kidding, because we did do shots, but you allow yourself ample time to go through all the appropriate stages of post-bad-race-grief:

Stage 1:  Screw this.  I'm NEVER doing this again.

Stage 2: Feel sorry for yourself while binge eating and drinking until you have serious 
night sweats and heartburn.


Stage 3: Get mad at yourself for ever feeling this way (<--loser!), and therefore start researching all other possible races to try again.

Stage 4: Stalk all the race results and get fired up while saying to yourself, "I could have done that!"

Stage 5: Pull your shit together, and FOCUS.  You now have a new race to run... 

After coming out of "Jesus's Hands" office this morning (<-- Dr. Jeremy at EPC), he assured me there is no tear in my calf.  I started convincing myself there was after this gremlin appeared under my skin right after the race, but Jeremy firmly believes I had an acute reaction to the inflammation that set in.  I'm already feeling a ton better after four days of bingeing rest, and the plan is to keep resting through the weekend, then try short/easy running next week.  I'm still planning an MRI so that my brain will allow me to run without hesitation, but I'm 98.2% confident that I'll be able to give this a go again.  


Up until four weeks before the race, training had never been so great.  I told myself that no matter what happened on race day, I was at peace with it because OTQ or not, I was the fittest I've ever been.  Some of my most confidence-inducing workouts: 

 *Two 10-mile marathon-paced tempos within 19-milers, one at 6:05 pace and the other at 6:02 pace; * Two x three miles within a 16-miler, the first at 5:59 pace, the second at 5:56 pace; 
*A 10K at 6:15 pace (alternating each K at 5:55 & 6:35 to purposely build lactic acid), followed by three easy miles before finishing a 16-miler with a five-mile tempo at 6:11 pace.

The day after finishing a cutdown 20-miler, my right calf got angry on an eight-mile recovery run.  The next day, I attempted my scheduled 16-miler, but I was stopped in my tracks about four miles in.  Okay, a little digression here...  I was pretty far away from home, so I went into a Dunkin Donuts Express and asked the very nice lady working if I could use her phone to call my husband for a ride.  I was wearing zebra-print spandex shorts and just a sports bra at the time, and she was seriously staring at me like I was, in fact, a deranged zebra.  I told her I was in the middle of a 16-mile run but got hurt, and she then just kinda stared at me blankly for about a solid, uncomfortable minute.  She then handed me her phone, but we never spoke again.  Um, k, bye.  So yeah, digression over... Hubby was managing our two rowdy kids, so he didn't answer, but luckily his BFF Cullen happened to be driving by and has a strong affinity for zebra culture...

It took about a week of ART work, massage, and dry needling to get my calf to calm down.  I then attempted a little quality training again, only to have it strain again a week later, only to have it calm down again just in time for the race.

 Dry Needling  🙈

 Attempted KT Tape

Homemade ice pack so that I could drive to work and recover simultaneously.
I should trademark this shit.

Being in Indy was awesome.  Coach Hubby Mike, our boys, and Mike's entire family was there, as were so many friends either there to cheer or chase their own OTQs and/or PRs.  The elite meeting the night before the race was full of 62 females and 25 males in the marathon alone attempting the OTQ standard (spoiler: 22 females and 10 males made it!).  
  






On the morning of the race, the wind chill was a balmy 19 degrees.  Oh okay.  About a half mile into the race, I gave the air a little first pump.  I always say that after about the first 10 seconds, you kind of know how you're going to feel, and I felt GREAT.  I was running right behind the OTQ pacer, in a full pack of dream-seeking women and other men too, and I thought it was going to be my day.  I felt my calf a teensy bit, but I wasn't alarmed.  I didn't even look at my watch until mile three, which passed in 18:53 (a perfect 6:17 OTQ pace!).  At mile five, my day was done.  In a matter of one step, my calf seared up the back, and I couldn't hold my normal form, which meant holding the pace would be nearly impossible.  I made the decision right away to call it, as there was no point in risking further damage.  After today's visit with Jeremy, I'm SO glad I made this call.  


I don't know for sure what my next step will be.  I will not toe another start line unless I know my calf is 100%.  We have until January 20th to get the standard, so I'm still hopeful, but in the end, if it doesn't happen, then this is what's meant to be.  Here's the thing... a lot of people ask, "What are you going to do if you don't get the standard?!"  Ummmm, I'm gonna, ya know, eat lunch, hug my family, aaaaaand move right along.  ...the same things I'd do if I DID get the standard.  I love to run, and regardless of an OTQ or not, I always will.  I train my best for where I am in my life, and I therefore know that when I stand on every start line, I'm as ready as I can be.  That's all I can do; that's all any of us can do.

I've done a lot of drinking thinking in the days after the race.  One of the things sitting heaviest on me is what my race may have meant to other women seeking their own individual dreams, whatever they may be.  I have been absolutely overwhelmed by all the words, cards, and gifts; etc. of love and encouragement before and after my race.  I feared that my DNF left many feeling that maybe we can't have it all.  Maybe working and having kids and a social life while still wanting to have our own identity is too much.  So to all my other mama dreamers, I say this:  Keep going.  It's possible.  It's not easy, but it's possible.  I was in the shape of my life; it just was out of my control on that day.  Sometimes a fire gets put out, but remember that it only takes one little spark to reignite it.

I'm not done.  Onward...


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

All In for Indy

Training officially kicked off this week for the Indy Monumental Marathon.  After a week of extreme sun and humidity here in NC, I'm happy that this week feels a bit more like being on vacay back in Maine...



This week consists of 60 miles, all comfy pace, but the real fun begins next week.  Training each week will consist of one "speedier" workout (long intervals, fartleks; etc.), a long run done at a specific pace depending on the week, a tempo to ingrain in me what 6:17 pace feels like, and a whole lot of super slow recovery runs.  My weekly mileage will peak at 83.  I'll focus on upper body strength and core 2x week, commit to more stretching and massaging, see Dr. Jeremy at EPC for ART and Dr. Chris at Guilford Ortho for dry needling when my foot becomes a bugger, and experiment with.......

Nutrition.  Now mind you, I ate three freezie pops after my run today, and I'm currently eating Doritos as I write this post.  I cannot and never will be someone that sacrifices one of my big loves in life:  FOOD.  However, I do know that I need to fine tune my choices to maximize energy stores while also figuring out some of my digestion issues.  My body can no longer tolerate many foods that I used to love and rely on for nutrients, i.e. bananas, cow's milk, and beef.  The latter is more likely a full-blown allergy, and I'm currently awaiting the results of an alpha-gal panel that my doctor ordered.  This would also put me at risk of lower iron/ferritin, which is crucial in endurance sports.  So, while awaiting clarity here, I'm focusing on what I can choose:  general complex carbs that will keep me fuller and burn/release slower (lots of pasta and brown rice), post-run immediate recovery (currently trying UCAN products), and cooking meals with vitamin-rich veggies (beets, spinach, chick peas, avocados; etc.).  My next step will be to improve my on-the-run choices.  While GU gels have always worked well, I can physically feel that I need more calories and electrolytes to sustain my pace/endurance.  This may simply mean I need more gels, or I may need to add something else, perhaps an energy drink (will try UCAN also).  
Side note, if you're in the Greensboro area, you must try the grits bowl at the Green Bean...grits, spinach, sweet potatoes, egg, bacon, feta cheese...hearty and delicious!


    
Above all, the most important component of this training will be perspective.  Many people have asked me:  "You've really put your goal out there.  What will you do if you don't get it?"  Ummm, I'll probably do the same thing as if I DID get it...cry.  Okay, no, just kidding.  Here's the thing...as long as you're honest with yourself and doing your best with where you are in life, that's all you can do.  Whether that means you hit your goal or not, it will be what it will be.  If I cross the finish line and fall short, but know in my heart that I did EVERYTHING I could, then I'm okay with that.  However, if in my heart I know I could have done more, then I'd probably feel regret and wonder "what if?"  I feel fortunate to have a genuine love for running; it isn't all about competing for me.  So, OTQ or not, I will keep on trucking for the sake of my happiness (and that of my family).

However, for now, I'm all in.  I want to be on that Olympic Trials start line.  I've always enjoyed working hard, but this feels different.  It feels like a ticking clock of sorts, but one that emits excitement, not nervousness.  Every workout is an opportunity to improve, not a test that I could potentially fail.

Happy Training!  

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Always Learning

No matter how long you’ve been running and how many races you’ve run, you learn something new about yourself every time you put yourself out there.  That is, if you let yourself.

The day you willingly admit your weaknesses, and therefore enact change to overcome them, is the day you’ll step forward to reaching your potential.

On July 4th, I ran a ~five mile race. Since Myrtle, I've kept my mileage pretty tame and threw in a few workouts to shock my legs out of endurance mode and into a little speed.  I had a few weeks where I felt really strong, then got knocked with bronchitis, which left me feeling like chewed up gum on the bottom of a smelly shoe. I knew I wanted to run this race though, so once healthy, I planned a short tempo to determine if I felt ready enough. In the middle of a nine-miler, I comfortably threw in three at a 6:08-6:01-5:57 cutdown, which gave me the confidence to race five at around 6:00 pace. So, race I would...

Two years ago, I won this race. This is where my learning begins...

*** Dude, you can't repeat history! I mean, yes, you can possibly repeat your finishing position, but if you envision and try to execute everything exactly like last time, you're most likely not considering how different the training, temperatures, and competition were, among many other factors. So yeah, I ran the exact same warmup, then got on the line with the exact same strategy in mind. I'd let all the batshit crazy pacers go out too fast, then have settled into my position between the one and two mile marks. However, when I took my first few steps, I was already considering what my post-race binge meal would be (if you're curious, I was imagining a cheesy omelette. ...with fries ...and maybe some sour watermelon gummies if I could find them). Not a good sign. It was in the 80's, hotter than the 70-degree start temps previously, and it was affecting me more than I anticipated. I hit mile one in 5:49, which was the exact split I had two years ago feeling strong, except today, I felt like pulling off at the train station alongside me and hightailing it to, sayyyy, Canada? Regardless, in my head, I was comparing too much to that previous race, still expecting it to go the exact same way, which therefore set me up for a whole lotta suck. Now that I know I succumbed to this, I will use it as a reminder for Indy, since I ran this marathon two years ago as well.

*** Oftentimes in training, I imagine myself in a head-to-head competition with someone. Yep, sure do! And of course, I always win. Duh! Ya know, I'm all tough and buff and awesome and ready to fight. Except in this race, it actually happened! And um, yeah, I ended up having my a$$ handed to me on a silver platter (well, bronze platter actually, since I finished third). For a few days after the race, I kept going back to the moment at mile four when the eventual second place finisher came up on my shoulder. The amount of cowardliness and anxiety I felt in that moment was, um, not okay. For as many times as I've excitedly played this moment in my head, it turns out I was too intimidated to go head-to-head, and I therefore just let her go, even though at that point, I physically wasn't feeling all that bad. I simply stopped focusing on my own body and more on someone else. In Indy, there is going to be a lot of women around me aiming for the same time I'm hoping to achieve. I need to remember to use them as motivation, perhaps a teammate even, but not a threat (meaning: don't. be. a. weeny).

*** Perhaps the best thing I learned on this day was how much my youngest son, Cooper, is just like me. Both boys came up with me to receive my award, and as it got quiet, Cooper looked right at the race director with a most serious face and asked, "Do you have any Doritos?"

So, yeah, I finished at about a 6:12 average pace. Pretty far off what I felt I could do and from my previous time, but meh, whatevs. A big positive that I learned from this cycle is that I definitely have the speed to run a 2:45; now it's time to peak my endurance to keep it going. Coach Hubby Mike has written my entire plan through Indy. It changes up a lot from what I'm used to, so I'm excited to get after it and overcome any other fears/weaknesses I learn about myself in the process.

Happy Running!



Saturday, June 8, 2019

Post-Myrtle-Pre-Indianapolis

Yesterday, on my way to a doctor appointment, I went to Target, which normally would be fine, except I only went to Target because it's on the same road as my doctor, and in my brain, this means that I should be going to Target.  It took me until I parked to realize that um, I was not at my correct destination.

So basically, this means that either (1) I have way too much (or maybe not enough??) going on in my brain, or (2) I go to Target wayyyyy too much.

K, so yeah, probably both.  Regardless, after that...and doing a few other dumbass things like that...this week, I realized that in order to successfully train how I want/need to for my fall marathon, I need to make some changes.  Like right now, I admitted to my husband that I needed a day away from our children.  More like two days.  Or six?  I know, this makes me sound...and feel...like a horrible mom, but to my defense...and self-justification...Mike was away this week, the kids were BATSHIT crazy (enter Scary Mommy), I have bronchitis, and I fell behind on work.  Anywho, so here I am, sitting outside Whole Foods, where I'm therapeutically blogging and just bought a bottle of elderberry to boost my immunities.  ...okay, and a bottle of wine <-- impulse buy.  Anywho, point being, I asked for help, and I'm taking a break when I know I need it.  

Okay, so rewind... After Myrtle Beach, I recovered the best I ever have after a marathon.  I took one full week off, another week of just cross-training on four days (that is, if you can even count the recliner bike as cross-training?  I mean, I even drank a latte while doing it one day), then started back with a few four to six mile runs in weeks three and four.  I've built back to a steady 60 miles/week now, feeling strong, and will officially start my marathon cycle on July 15th, where I'll climb back to 80 miles/week.  If my chest decides to not be a butthead next week and I can get a few speed workouts in before July 4th, I may do a five-mile race, but other than that, my focus is solely on the Indy Marathon.

Okay, so now...what else will I be doing to give this race a full go... 
* Sleep...  Mike and I both desperately need it, so we need to make it a goal to be in bed by 10pm.
* Nutrition...  I.e. more veggies and fruit.  More protein.  Less empty calories, particularly my fru fru coffee drinks (I had a s'mores latte this morning with whipped cream on both the top and bottom that I promised myself would only be a one-time thang mmm soooo gooood) and wine (<-- unless I become a total bitch, then I'll reinstate this one).
* Willingness to be uncomfortable...  I've sometimes altered certain workouts to make them less ScArY out of either fear of failure or not trusting myself to stick to certain paces.  Can't do that.  Must appreciate their benefits, do them as prescribed, and not be a weeny.
* Patience & flexibility... Two weeks ago on my runs, I felt so strong; this week...total suck fest.  I'm still getting in all my miles with the bronchitis (yeah yeah, doc said it was okay), but I'm keeping every day at recovery effort until it clears.  Therefore, I'm trying to be patient and flexible while not getting in the training as I'd like.  I seriously need to start practicing this in all aspects of life to in turn help my running.
* We're discussing some other stuff, like making my once-a-week rest day once every three weeks now (I'd do some light XT instead).  I think something like this can only happen if I enact some of the above first though.  Mike and I would also like to figure out how to get more time together by ourselves.  It should be easier than we're finding it, and we know it would make us both more energetic, happy, and productive.

So, there we have it.  Maybe I should go return this impulse-buy wine bottle!?  Just kidding.  Not happening.  I'm so determined to give this goal my best, yet I also need to stay grounded and enjoy life so that I can be happily present for my family, runners, and friends. 

Happy Running!