Tuesday, August 25, 2015

To Run or Not To Run

How is it already the end of August?  How did that happen?  Didn't this year just start? 

I thought I'd pop in and give a quick update to assure everyone that I'm still alive.  I'm currently knee deep in marathon training and so far so good.  Last week brought some cooler temps (although the high humidity has still been sticking around) and man what a difference that made with my training runs!  I was so happy and my legs just wanted to go!

This past weekend I got in back-to-back double digit miles just to see how my legs would hold up.  On Saturday I ran 4 miles with Thepinkhatrunner and Therealdealrunner before we joined The Treadmill's 6 mile Palo Corona Fun Run.  Oh man, that mountain kicks my butt every. single. time.  But I'm happy to report that I ran the furthest up that dang thing than I ever had this weekend before having to take a walk break.  And I got in 10 miles with considerably happy legs.  Progress...finally!

On Sunday I tackled 12 miles on some new to me trails on the Laguna Seca side of the Fort Ord trails. At 1:30 PM in the afternoon.  Yeah...not such a smart idea.  I was originally supposed to hit the trails with T first thing in the morning but thanks to a headache and some nausea our run got postponed to the hottest part of the day.  So fun! But not really.

We ran an out and back with the first 3+ miles being fast downhill before we hit some rolling hills and some challenging climbs.  You guys, I thought I was going to die!  Heat is just not this girl's friend and throw in some tummy trouble that popped up around mile 4 and I was one not so happy runner.  I have to give T major props for not trying to kill me or ditch me on the side of the trails 'cuz I'm pretty sure I wasn't an entire joy to deal with.  The man has the patience of a saint I tell ya!  Oh BTW did you know that anything that goes down you inevitably have to run back up on the return trip?  Insert a very cranky little runner here.  But I got it done and T got me a soda at the closest 7-Eleven as soon as we were finished and I was back to my usual happy self as soon as I took a sip of that cold, carbonated deliciousness!  Sidenote: Does anyone else crave soda after a long run? Ever since my first ultra when I had soda on the course I must have soda after a long run now.  Which is really interesting since I don't usually want soda at all normally.
That's "Coach" T.  Isn't he handsome?  I kinda dig him.
That brings me to this week where I'm supposed to be tapering for the Toro Park 30k this coming Saturday.  Supposed to be.  Here's the thing: I'm not ready.  I didn't run enough on those trails (and trust me those climbs are killer).  I didn't put in enough mileage.  I just didn't put in enough work.  And I respect that course and the distance way too much to just show up on race day and expect to pull an awesome race out of nowhere.  So here's my dilemma: To run it or not to run it?  I have a really hard time not even trying to run a race that I paid good money to run but it's also not my goal race and I really, REALLY want that PR in November.  Is it worth the risk to attempt to race or would I be better off focusing on getting in a good run that's tailored towards that marathon PR?
I'm not sure of the answer yet but I promise to let you all know once I figure it out.
Did you ever DNS a race?  Did you regret it or were you glad you opted not to?  Please share your experience.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Don't Call It A Setback!

The 2015 Salinas Valley Half Marathon was a disaster of a race for me and I definitely took a hit to my running confidence because of it.  I was beyond disappointed and more than a little pissed with my performance.  But you know what, bad races and bad runs happen.  It's what you do about it that defines you and boy did that race light a fire under me!  I jumped right back into marathon training and started hitting it hard and fast.

It's been a whirling dervish of cross training (barre and TRX) and running.  The weather has made it harder than usual (anyone else over the heat & humidity or is it just me?) but I haven't given myself any opportunity to skip out or ease up.  It helps that my special someone (let's call him T) has unofficially appointed himself as my training coach and he's been holding me accountable for every single run and workout.  Seriously, I get a reminder every morning and a follow-up text or call in the evening to check on how I did!

Here's a rundown on last week's activities:

Cross training day!  I hit up barre class after work and got my behind handed to me as usual.  Loved it!

Barre so hard!
I was scheduled for a 3 mile run and I got a little carried away.  I got my 3 miles in at o'dark thirty with Thepinkhatrunner and therealdealrunner and directly after that joined them in the pool for about 45 minutes of pool running.  After work, I was feeling so good that I meandered over to the barre studio for another killer barre session.
5 miles of running was what was scheduled and thanks to the heat and humidity, that's all I got in.  It was a bit of a struggle and more than once I wanted to quit but I gritted my teeth and got it done!
I was scheduled for 3 miles but thanks to cooler temps and overcast, cloudy skies I felt sooo much better during this run than I did the day before and I ended up running 6 miles including some hill repeats.  Oops!  Then I scooted over to the barre studio for an awesome TRX class.  I was on fire! 
Hill repeats, beach running and an ocean view.
TRX training
Rest day

This was my scheduled long run day so I joined Thepinkhatrunner and Therealdealrunner for a run at Toro Park.  We have a race at Toro Park at the end of the month so we decided to run part of the race course so that we'd be familiar with what to expect on race day.  There was tons of climbing (I made it to the top of Black Mountain for the first time and didn't die!), climbing over and under barbed wire, and even scooting down steep trails on our bottoms.  It was quite an adventure and we ended up with 12+ miles in the books.

I survived!

T needed to get some miles in for his ultramarathon training so I joined him for a short, easy recovery run.  It was nice to not have to push as hard while getting to explore some new to me trails.  Afterwards, I returned the favor by dragging him with me to his very first TRX class.  He's such a good sport and he did great! 

Recovery trail running

I'm also proud to report that my nutrition has also been on point.  T and I made a pact to clean up our diet so we've been limiting our dining out as well as cooking more.  We've been so good at sticking to eating clean!  We're also challenging ourselves by doing the Whole30 challenge in September.  I'm scared!  However, in all honesty it's been really nice to have someone in my life who not only understands, encourages and supports me but is right there in the trenches with me.
So there you have it!  I'm back, I'm focused and I'm determined to not only reach but exceed my expectations for my goal marathon.  I will get that PR and most importantly prove to myself that I can do it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015 Salinas Valley Half Marathon - Race Recap

I pride myself on being 100% real and candid with what I share.  It's easy to share the PRs, the good runs, the goals that are met and exceeded, and the days when running feels effortless.  But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't come clean with all of the runs that I struggle through and the races that don't go as planned.  The 2015 Salinas Valley Half Marathon was one of those races for me.

It started with my 4:00 AM wake-up call.  I woke-up with a headache thanks to allergies and 4 hours of sleep.  Not a good sign.  Thankfully I had the foresight to get all of my race gear ready the night before so all I had to do was throw my clothes on, grab my food & water bottle and head out to the race.  The Salinas Valley Half Marathon has an 8:00 AM start time but since I didn't pick up my bib at the race expo the day before, I was making the 1 hour drive earlier than usual to hit up the race day bib pick-up booth.  Of course, about 20 minutes into my drive I realized I forgot to bring body glide for my thighs (thigh rub is real people!).  Awesome...but not really.

The site of the start line

Thankfully, the parking situation at the race start line was extremely well organized and I got a parking spot really easily.  Bib pick-up was also extremely well organized and I got my bib in no time.  SVHM does an incredible job with their start line area.  They have a tent with coffee, water, bagels and fruit for all runners and more than ample porta potties for runners to use.  I spent my time chatting it up with everyone and before I knew it, it was time to line up for the race to start!

It was so awesome to see these two

After a few words from the race announcer (my all time favorite, Mr. Rudy Novotny) and the singing of the national anthem we were off!  Here's the deal...I do not like running in heat. Throw in humidity and I'm not a happy runner.  So when I was already warm standing at the start line before the race in my tank top and shorts I knew I was in for a rough run.  And just as I expected I started getting really warm within the first quarter mile of the race and I could not get my breathing under control.  For those who don't know, I have exercise induced asthma.  Typically, I take a couple preventative puffs from my inhaler before the race and I'm good to go but this time around the humidity was really restricting my ability to breathe (plus I forgot my inhaler at home.  Major fail!).

Then a little over a mile into the race my left shoelace comes undone.  I just stared at it in disbelief for a second because my laces have never come undone in a race before and maybe only once during a training run.  I may have outwardly cursed when I bent down to tie them.  That, coupled with the warm weather & humidity, started the end of my race.

I couldn't for the life of me get things under control after that.  It took what felt like a lot of effort to maintain an easy pace and I could not get my breathing right.  As I struggled more and more with every mile, the deeper down the dark spiral my mind went.  At around mile 7, my mind gave up and I walked...for two miles!  I couldn't even rally myself to take advantage of the sweet downhill a little before mile 8 all the way to mile 9.  I was mentally over it.

Yeah...the entire course was a beast

The rest of the race was basically me fighting with myself to continue moving.  At some point I got myself to run a little bit, only to have my mind bonk and start walking again.  Each time I gave in and walked, the worse my thought patterns got.  I did a lot of self harm in the form of beating myself up for my perceived lack of running ability.  I wasn't good enough.  I wasn't strong enough.  I wasn't fast enough.  I even considered pulling out of my next two races.

Eventually, I put my big girl panties on and at least ran the last mile into the finish.  I crossed the finish line but I was far from happy about it.  But here's the thing about runners...they're truly some of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They wouldn't let me wallow in my self pity.  Between the hugs and the congratulations on finishing and the commiserating on the rough race conditions this year, I started to feel better and within minutes I was back to my happy smiling self.

I'm not proud of my performance at this race.  Any other time I've had a bad race it's because of something physical that I had to overcome whether it be my asthma or cramping or tummy issues or my wonky ankle.  Today it was my mind and that's the part that disappoints me the most.  It was something I should have easily broke through and overcome.  But in the grand scheme of things, it's not the end of the world.  Bad races happen.  My job as a runner is to figure out WHY it happened, learn from it and come back stronger than ever.

As much as this race SUCKED (and oh man did it suck) there were a lot of lessons learned that I know will make my next one a million times better.

1) Respect the distance and come prepared.  You'd think I'd know this by now given how many races I've ran but I think that's exactly what did me in.  In my mind I'm an old pro at this race thing and I didn't give the distance the respect it deserves.  I didn't do the proper speed training, I didn't put in the proper mileage and most importantly I didn't do the mental preparation that I should have done to get into race mode.  I set myself up for failure because I didn't show up to that start line at 100%.

2) SLEEP.  This is my nemesis.  I have horrible insomnia and when I'm stressed it becomes even worse.  Throw in allergies or an asthma attack and forget about it!  I really need to figure out a way to shut my mind down early enough to ensure I get enough sleep before a race.

3) Nutrition.  Again, I should know better but I wasn't as meticulous about my diet this week as I usually am during the week of a race.  Basically I didn't consume enough calories which, coupled with my lack of sleep, left my body completely depleted and with no energy to help me run strong.

4) Get that mental game right!  Here is where I struggle the most.  When I'm on, I'm on and nothing can throw me off my game.  But once I get even slightly off track mentally and into that dark space, it's all downhill from there.  I know why my mental game wasn't as strong as it normally is and that's mostly because of the amount of stress I'm under at the moment.  Unfortunately, I can't control a lot of it but believe you me I'll be working on those things that I can control.

I'm not gonna lie.  My confidence took a huge beating.  It's going to take some work to build it back up to where it should be but I can guarantee you that I'll be back out there pounding the pavement and hitting those trails sooner versus later.  My ego may be a bruised but I'm not beaten.  At the end of the day, no matter how ugly it got I still finished.  I got it done.  And that's all that matters.