Highs and Lows: Lots of Lessons So Far in 2014

So, I will just go ahead an skip the “I haven’t written in forever…” introduction to my post.  I know, it’s been a while.  As always, blogging about life can sometimes interfere with actually living it so this inadvertent hiatus was really a necessity.  Luckily, a lot has happened in my racing and training since my last post so this post will provide a nice, concise summary of the highlights since late last year.  I have had some of my best and worst racing experiences to date since 2014 kicked off and boy, have I learned a lot.  A lot about running but, more importantly, a lot about myself.  With my spring season over and fall season about to begin, I have made major strides both physiologically and psychologically that will continue to serve me well.


Training

On the whole, I have continued to maintain a pretty decent training regime .  I will admit though that I have been a little bit frustrated on this front.  I crammed quite a bit of racing into the first 3 months of this year which made my training interesting.  I can’t be too upset with myself – I have racked up quite a few PRs during this time so I must be doing something right.  In spite of that, I am a bit of a slave to the goals I set and the training plans I make so falling short is always disappointing.

Weekly Distance – I have continued to put in 30-40 miles a week so that is pretty close to my target.  I have seen more 30’s than 40’s in my training log but I have tried to tell myself that I need to keep listening to my body and also take time to enjoy life beyond running.  Plus, with “feels like” temperatures skyrocketing into the triple digits at times, it has been tough to stay on target.  I have spent the last few month as my “off season” or base building period of training, I have generally enjoyed alleviating the pressure and just started to build in a few tempo runs in late July/early August.

Pace – I am happy to report that I have definitely made a breakthrough when it comes to pace at the beginning of this year.  At some midpoint in my spring training cycle, I started seeing a lot more 8:something miles.  For quite some time, I have been finding most of my easy effort miles to fall somewhere in the 9:00-9:15 range.  I am now starting to see my training pace come down with my increasing race paces.  Prior to the onset of summer heat, I was finding most easy and long run miles falling somewhere in the 8 minute range.  No complaints there!  I’m sure that speed will be there and more as temperatures and humidity starts to return to normal levels.

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Racing

Now, here is where I have really experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I have really come to the realization that while races where you feel great are fun, amazing, and probably necessary to keep you going, they don’t necessarily yield the greatest lessons.  Scratching your head saying “Wow, I have not idea why I felt so amazing but I hope it happens again next time,” does not a lesson make.  So first, a summary of my races so far this year:

  • January 11, 2014 – Walt Disney World Half Marathon
  • January 26, 2014 – Town of Celebration Half Marathon
  • February 15, 2014 – Run Around the Pines 5k
  • February 23, 2014 – Disney Princess Half Marathon
  • March 8, 2014 – Pig on the Pond – Rib Run 5k
  • March 16, 2014 – Castaway Cay 5k
  • April 12, 2014 – Spring Sprint 5k
  • May 3, 2014 – Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Since I’ve been up to quite a bit, I will keep my summaries of each event short and sweet.

January 11, 2014 – Walt Disney World Half Marathon – 2:20:25

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This was hands down the toughest race experience of my running career so far.  Long story short, I didn’t hydrate properly before this one (which I only knew in hindsight).  As soon as I crossed the starting line, something was off.  I had a weird pain sensation in my lower rib cage area.  I had never felt anything like it before but I figured it might go away as time passed.  Well, it didn’t.  I was on pace for about the first 3 miles but it was getting harder and harder to run and I quickly realized that I couldn’t keep going on like this.  Breathing was harder than it should have been and my goal became to get to my mom and husband who were waiting in the Magic Kingdom with no idea what was going on.  For the first time since my first year of running, I had to walk during a half marathon.  I knew I wouldn’t hit my 1:50 goal that I had been working so hard towards and I was just so sad, frustrated, and concerned with what the heck this sensation was.  I burst into tears when I saw Charles and my mom.  They tried to convince me to step off the course but I wouldn’t.  I assured them that I would seek medical attention if I needed it, would text as I went, and would take walk breaks as needed.  I tried to make the most of it, took pictures with characters and made it to the finish line.  I still beat the time of my very first half marathon so it’s amazing to reflect on how far I have come over the last 4 years.  This medal means so much because it is a reminder to appreciate the races where it feels good and also about the importance of never giving up.

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January 26, 2014 – Town of Celebration Half Marathon – 1:49:42 – New PR! (spoiler alert: it didn’t last long)

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After my terrible race experience just two weeks earlier, I was determined to redeem myself and try to reach my goal again.  Well, I finally did it!  I was determined to run a 1:50 half and, although it certainly did not feel at all easy this time, I made it happen.  I decided to stick with the 1:50 pacer which was going great until about mile 7.  I started to struggle and the pacer started slipping away.  Thank goodness that a friend from my running group spotted me on course and saw I was struggling.  I shared my goal with him and he stuck with me, reminding me how badly I wanted this and how I could hang on.  My pace slipped some but I kept pushing.  It felt incredibly difficult but I reached down deep, unsure that I would attain my goal since the pace group was still out of sight.  As I approached the finish line and saw a 1:4-something on the clock, I almost couldn’t believe it.  I have to plug this race as well.  I had an awesome experience and will DEFINITELY be back year after year.  I’m already registered for next year and you should be too.

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With Nan, part of my incredible team of loyal spectators!

February 15, 2014 – Run Around the Pines 5k – 22:41 – New PR!

This was just an amazing race.  Track Shack always puts on a good event but this was a particularly flat and fast course.  I wasn’t sure how it would go since I didn’t have a great feeling going in but it felt almost effortless until the last mile.  Even then, I kept a really strong pace and was streaming past people until the end.  I wish every race could feel this way!

IMG_5945February 23, 2014 – Disney Princess Half Marathon – 1:47:30

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This is my all time favorite race experience to date!  I can’t even explain why this race went so well but every moment was just amazing.  I returned to the very same course I struggled through the month before with no real expectations.  Since I had such a big PR at Celebration, I went into this race with absolutely no goals or aims.  Scratch that, I had just one.  To have an amazingly fun time and I accomplished that one too.  I wasn’t nervous, had my great playlist ready and toed the line feeling happy and relaxed.  My plan was just to run what I felt and apparently I felt really great in spite of a relatively hot humid day.  I brought back my Anna costume and just smiled my way through 13.1.  I learned my lesson from January and made sure to drink a lot before the race.  Unfortunately, this meant I needed to pee at the starting line and that feeling never went away.  I was so tempted to stop for a bathroom break almost the entire race but as I saw my stellar mile splits come up, I knew another PR could possibly be in my reach if I just kept going.  So I did.  I was not watching the clock so carefully but I knew my time would be good.  I thought I had reached the outer limit of my ability at Celebration but I blasted it away with ease during this race.  I felt so amazing that day that I probably could have continued to run.  I wish I could bottle up my feelings that day to experience them again.  Races like this don’t happen every day.  I like to call this one my “accidental PR.”

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March 8, 2014 – Pig on the Pond – Rib Run 5k – 22:59 – 1st Place 25-29 AG

I wanted to get in a few 5k’s before my next big race effort so this one fit perfectly in my schedule and had a great theme as well.  It was shockingly chilly for Florida so I broke out the winter gear.  This one felt ok but not my best.  I was pleased to see that I earned 1st place in my AG (including a nice award) on this out and back course.  Plus, I got to hold a baby pig after the race!  It doesn’t get better than that!

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March 16, 2014 – Castaway Cay 5k – 22:43 – 1st Female

As always, this is a fun small untimed race that takes place during every Disney Cruise Line voyage that visits the private island, Castaway Cay.  It’s always quite hot since it’s in the Bahamas and around 9 or 10 am at the start.  Charles join this one as well and I’m always proud to seem him join in the racing fun!

April 12, 2014 – Spring Sprint 5k – 22:49 – 3rd Place 20 – 29 AG

This was a really tough 5k course for me as it was relatively hilly compared with my normal efforts.  I kept on pushing and still managed a good time and 3rd place in my age group.  It was so nice to race consistently this spring.  It’s always hard to toe the starting line but it feels so good to have a good race with a great outcome.

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May 3, 2014 – Pittsburgh Half Marathon – 1:48:59

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Again, since I had so many strong races this spring, I didn’t have any expectations for this one.  I really wanted to return to my hometown, have fun, and raise money for Steel City Greyhounds, an incredibly deserving organization that helps retired racing greyhounds to find their forever homes.  I had been having some stomach issues leading up to race day so I was nervous about that on race morning.  After almost missing the start due to some early road closures, I made it just in the nick of time.  I focused just on having fun and it worked wonders for me again.  I ran by feeling and saw my mile splits start to speed up.  I was impressed at how my body took on what is known to be a hilly course especially for a Floridian who did not manage to get in any hill training before this race.  The thrilling feeling of the finish line approach was augmented by the fact that this race ends on a huge downhill.  I would definitely do this one again and recommend it highly!  I was also able to recreate a photo from my very first 5k, 20 years earlier!

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Life

Oh so much has happened.  Vacations, friends, fun, and family.  I’ll have to save the details for another day but we added to wonderful new members to our family during the month of May.  Elsa the greyhound joined the ranks first followed quickly by the tiny baby kitten Sgt. Tibbs!  He has grown like a weed over the last few months and Elsa is feeling very much at home.  They love us and each other.  For those keeping score, we now have 3 cats and a dog so the house is just about full up for now.  It’s overflowing with love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Signing off for now!  More to come soon hopefully without such a long lapse in time.  Dumbo Double Dare is just around the corner after all and I have what I think will be some great costumes on their way!

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